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Posts Tagged ‘English history

“I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it… Anything is possible on a train”*…

 

Remember when Google Street View only allowed you to explore streets? Since its launch in 2007, the service has been expanded to include things like coral reefs, hiking trails and the Amazon River. In its latest “off-road” adventure, however, Google Maps has thought smaller – it’s used miniaturized Street View cameras to visually map a model railroad.

The li’l railway in question is actually the world’s largest such exhibit, and it’s much more than just trains and tracks. Located in the city of Hamburg, Miniatur Wunderland spans 1,300 square meters (13,993 sq ft), recreating a number of European and American attractions at a scale of 1:87. It’s full of moving bits and pieces, along with 230,000 miniature inhabitants.

Previously, however, visitors had to view most of it from above, as if they were in an airplane. With the new Street View option, they’re now able to explore its various roads and parks as if they were right down in there…

Ans so one can: wander through the Lilliputian landscape (and check out the video tour) at “Google Maps gives the Street View treatment to world’s largest model railroad.”

* Paul Theroux

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As we get small, we might light a birthday candle for Sir Francis Bacon– English Renaissance philosopher, lawyer, linguist, composer, mathematician, geometer, musician, poet, painter, astronomer, classicist, philosopher, historian, theologian, architect, father of modern science (The Baconian– aka The Scientific– Method), and patron of modern democracy, whom some allege was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I of England… but who was in any event born on this date in 1561.

Bacon (whose Essays were, in a fashion, the first “management book” in English) was, in Alexander Pope’s words, “the greatest genius that England, or perhaps any country, ever produced.”  He probably did not actually write the plays attributed to Shakespeare (as a thin, but long, line of enthusiasts, including Mark Twain and Friedrich Nietzsche, believed).   But Bacon did observe, in a discussion of sedition that’s as timely today as ever, that “the remedy is worse than the disease.”

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“Eclecticism is the degree zero of contemporary general culture: one listens to reggae, watches a western, eats McDonald’s food for lunch and local cuisine for dinner”*…

 

WHOS READY 4 SRVICE ???!!! BOOM WE’VE GOT THE BLINK 182 BLASTING AND ARE READY TO GRILL IT AND THRILL IT 2NITE !!! READY 2 EAT JIMMY DEAN SAUSAGE W/ CANNED SPRING VEG, FRENCH’S, FRITOS HOOPS + PISTACHIO SOIL. PALATE CLEANSING SHOT OF FERMENTED LAKE MICHIGAN WATER W/ NUTISIONAL YEAST RIM !!!!

 

Say it aloud: Chef Jacques La Merde

What do you get when you cross fast food with fine dining? A brilliant new Instagram account that marries tongue-in-cheek humor with kitchen slang. Chef Jacques Lamerde— a pseudonym for a chef familiar with New Nordic plating techniques — has a penchant for fast junk food and crazy-cool flavor combinations. The chef’s tagline is “small portions | tweezered everything,” but it’s the image descriptions that have us laughing out loud. “Hay-baked Hot Pockets with Hidden Valley Bacon Ranch spheres and a puree of Zoodles” anyone? What would René Redzepi [the king of Nordic cuisine] say?…

More at Eater, and of course, on Instagram.

Jean François Lyotard

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As we tuck in our napkins, we might recall that it was on this date in 1531 that Richard Roose (or Rouse), the cook in the household of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was boiled to death after being convicted of high treason.  It was claimed that Roose had poisoned a porridge (or pottage) served to Fisher and his guests on 18th February 1531.  All who ate it became ill, and two people died.  King Henry VIII enacted a special law decreeing Roose– who argued that he’d added a purgative to the dish “as a jest”– be boiled alive for the offense.  Henry’s decree, with death by boiling as punishment for poisoning, remained on the law books in England until 1863; at least one other person was stewed under its provisions.

Roose being boiled, in a scene from The Tudors

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Written by LW

April 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Just like heaven. Ever’body wants a little piece of lan’… Nobody never gets to heaven, and nobody gets no land”*…

 

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The rough beauty of the American West seems as far as you can get from the polished corridors of power in Washington DC. Until you look at the title to the land. The federal government owns large tracts of the western states: from a low of 29.9% in Montana, already more than the national average, up to a whopping 84.5% in Nevada…

More on government land, the uses to which it is put, and the issues it raises at “How the West Is Owned.”

* John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

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As we wonder what Horace Greeley was on about, we might recall that it was on this date in 1601 that agents of Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, paid Shakespeare’s theater troupe, The Lord Chamberlin’s Men, to perform Richard II.  The group had been reluctant to dust off the by-then old piece of repertoire, but were convinced by a 40 shilling “gratuity.”  Essex’s purpose in the endeavor was to stir the public against Queen Elizabeth (who identified– and was identified with– the childless, and thus heir-less Richard II, who is deposed in the play).

Essex had squandered and blundered his way into financial trouble and out of the Queen’s graces; desperate, he had plotted a rebellion that he launched two days after the play’s performance– only to find that he had garnered no support at all from the people.  He was quickly captured by Elizabeth’s Lord High Admiral (the Earl of Nottingham) and his men, tried, convicted, and on February 25th, less than two weeks after his patronage of the stage, beheaded at the Tower of London.

The rebellious Earl of Essex

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Written by LW

February 7, 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

“Do not let your adorning be external”*…

 

In 2011, textile conservators discovered fragments of medieval manuscripts lining the hems of dresses at the Cistercian convent of Wienhausen in Northern Germany. The dresses in question, made by nuns in the late fifteenth century, clothed the convent’s statues.

The medieval dresses were made of patches of different cloth such as linen, velvet and silk, some in the form of lampas, a luxurious material, and sported rabbit fur trim. To achieve drapery-like folds in the fur, the nuns stiffened the hems by lining them with strips of parchment gathered in folds by means of a thread. The parchment… was not brought into the Convent for the purpose of lining. In fact, the manuscript fragments that have been discovered are recycled materials that include liturgical manuscripts and legal texts. Book recycling was common in the late fifteenth century, as evidenced by a manuscript from the Bodleian’s own collection (below). Because this was a period of religious reform, liturgical texts became outdated particularly quickly, accounting for their use as dress lining…

Bodleian Library, MS. Lat. liturg. e. 18

Read more at the Bodleian Library’s Conveyor, in Nora Wilkinson’s “Texts and Textiles: Finding Manuscripts in Unusual Places.”

* 1 Peter 3:3

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As we wear it well, we might recall that it was on this date in 1374 that Geoffrey Chaucer received an annual pension of 10 pounds from John of Gaunt.  Chaucer was fresh back from a military expedition to Italy, during which he is believed to have met Petrarch and/or Boccacio, and to have encountered the forms of medieval Italian poetry which he would use in later work like The Canterbury Tales.  Earlier in the year Gaunt’s brother, King Edward III, granted Chaucer “a gallon of wine daily for the rest of his life” for an unspecified task– an unusual grant, but given on a day of celebration, St George’s Day (April 23rd), when artistic endeavors were traditionally honored, it is assumed to have been for an early poetic work.  It is not known which, if any, of Chaucer’s extant works prompted the reward, but the suggestion of him as poet to a king places him as a precursor to later poets laureate.

Chaucer in an initial from Lansdowne MS 851 fol. 2. British Library

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Written by LW

June 13, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The English language has a deceptive air of simplicity; so have some little frocks; but neither are the kind of thing you can run up in half an hour with a machine”*…

 

Dr. Philip Durkin is Deputy Chief Editor of the Oxford English Dictionary. author of Borrowed Words: A History of Loanwords in English— and creator of the nifty interactive infographic pictured above:

I examine how words borrowed from different languages have influenced English throughout its history. The above feature summarizes some of the main data from the book, focusing on the 14 sources that have given the most words to English, as reflected by the new and revised entries in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Using the date buttons at the top of the graphic, you can compare the impact that different languages have made on English over time. In the “per period” view, you can see the proportions of words coming into English from each source in 50-year slices from 1150 up to the present day. Compare, for instance, how the input from German has grown and then declined again from 1800 to the present day. (The earliest period, pre-1150, is much longer than 50 years, because more precise dating of words from this early stage in the history of English is very problematic.)

If you switch to the “cumulative” view, then you can see how the total number of loanwords from each language has built up over time. Here the shifts from one 50-year period to another are rather less dramatic, but the long-term shifts are still very striking. You can see, for instance, how German, Spanish, and Italian all slowly come to greater prominence. You can see this very clearly if you select any start date and then press the “play” button. (If you would like to see the numbers behind the graphic, a selection of graphs and charts from Borrowed Words is available here.)…

Get a feel for the truly global scope of English’s borrowing, and at the same time, an appreciation of just how “dependent” we are on Latin and French– play with the interactive graphic at “The Many Origins of the English Language.”

* Dorothy L. Sayers

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As we marvel at the mash-up, we might recall that it was on this date in 1413 that Henry V became King of England.  Immortalized by Shakespeare as the slacker prince who redeems himself in battle (the Henry IV plays) and as the inspirational commander at Agincourt (Henry V), Henry does in fact seem to have been an effective monarch, pursuing a unifying domestic policy that led to relative calm during his reign. His foreign policy was dominated by a steady military campaign against France that continued to his death.

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Written by LW

March 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

“In the beginning was the Word”*…

Pope Francis has been widely lauded in the media for his focus on serving as an example of Christian humility and engaging the marginalized and poor. His decision to live in the the Vatican guesthouse rather than in the Apostolic Palace, his handling of extreme opulence within the Catholic Church, and his priority for frequent, visible acts of charity all point to the direction Pope Francis wishes to guide the Church… Since the beginning of his papacy both the pope’s actions and his words have suggested a shift in focus as compared to his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI…

In order to glean more clues about Pope Francis’ philosophy and how he will communicate it, I analyzed word frequencies in the first 104 official speeches given by Pope Francis, from March 2013 to November 2013. For comparison, I did the same analysis for the first 102 official speeches of Pope Benedict XVI, given between April 2005 and November 2005. For both popes I used only speeches that had English translations. To visualize the results I created word clouds below, where the sizes of words are proportional to their usage (the differences in color are meaningless and intended to help the reader focus on specific words). Finally, I removed the top five words used by both popes, to better discern differences in word usage. These top five words were: God, Jesus, Lord, Christ, and Church…

Read more of Chris Walker‘s analysis on his site, Vizynary.

*John 1:1

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As we ponder pontiffs, we might spare a thought for a saint; it was on this day in 1431 that investigations began for the trial of Joan of Arc.  Joan had entered history in spectacular fashion during the spring of 1429: following what she maintained was the command of God, Joan led the French Dauphin’s armies in a series of stunning military victories over the English, effectively reversing the course of the Hundred Years’ War.  But she was captured in 1430 by the Burgundians, a faction (led by the Duke of Burgundy) allied with the English.  The French King, Charles VII, declined to ransom her from the Burgundians who then “sold” her to the English. In December of that year, she was transferred to Rouen, the military headquarters and administrative capital in France of King Henry VI of England, and placed on trial for heresy before a Church court headed by a Bishop loyal to the English.

Joan was convicted and executed in May of 1431.  She was exonerated in 1456 when the verdict was reversed on appeal by the Inquisitor-General. She became a French national heroine, and in 1920 was canonized a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Joan of Arc interrogated by The Cardinal of Winchester in her prison 1431. Painting by Paul Delaroche (1797-1856).

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