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Posts Tagged ‘Marco Polo

“Memories, you’re talking about memories”*…

 

blade-runner-still-1-

It’s natural, here at the lip of a new year, to wonder what 2019 might hold.  And it’s bracing to note that Blade Runner (released in 1982) is one of 14 films set in a future that is this, the year on which we’re embarking.

But lest we dwell on the dark prognostication they tend to portray, we might take heart from Jill Lepore’s wonderfully-entertaining review of predictions: “What 2018 looked like fifty years ago” and recent honoree Isaac Asimov’s 1983 response to the Toronto Star‘s request for a look at the world of 2019.

Niels Bohr was surely right when he observed that “prediction is difficult, especially about the future.”

* Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), Blade Runner

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As we contend with the contemporary, we might spend a memorial moment honoring two extraordinary explorers who died on this date.  Marco Polo, whose coda to his remarkable travelogue was “I did not tell half of what I saw,” passed away on this date in 1324.

A page from “Il Milione” (aka” Le Livre des Merveilles” (“The Book of Wonders”)… and in English, “The Travels of Marco Polo”

And Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist, philosopher, and pioneering astronomer, rose to his beloved heavens on this date in 1642.  Galileo (whom, readers will recall, had his share of trouble with authorities displeased with his challenge to Aristotelean cosmology), died insisting “still, it [the Earth] moves.”

Draft of Galileo’s letter to Leonardo Donato, Doge of Venice, in which he first recorded the movement of the moons of Jupiter– an observation that upset the notion that all celestial bodies must revolve around the Earth.

Written by LW

January 8, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Witches was the invention of mankind, son. We’re all witches beneath the skin”*…

 

The history of witchcraft in Britain is a dark one, brimming with trials, persecution and torture, which claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent men and women during the 16th and 17th centuries. But what did you actually have to do to end up in the dock, accused of Devil worship and crimes of witchcraft? Very little, as the following questions, compiled with the help of Owen Davies, professor of social history at the University of Hertfordshire, reveal…

Take the quiz at “Would you have been accused of witchcraft?

* Ian Rankin, The Flood

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As we stir our cauldrons, we might spend a memorial moment honoring two extraordinary explorers who died on this date.  Marco Polo, whose coda to his remarkable travelogue was “I did not tell half of what I saw,” passed away on this date in 1324.

A page from “Il Milione” (aka” Le Livre des Merveilles” (“The Book of Wonders”)… and in English, “The Travels of Marco Polo”

And Galileo Galilei, the Italian physicist, philosopher, and pioneering astronomer, rose to his beloved heavens on this date in 1642.  Galileo (whom, readers will recall, had his share of trouble with authorities displeased with his challenge to Aristotelean cosmology), died insisting “still, it [the Earth] moves.”

Draft of Galileo’s letter to Leonardo Donato, Doge of Venice, in which he first recorded the movement of the moons of Jupiter– an observation that upset the notion that all celestial bodies must revolve around the Earth.

Written by LW

January 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?…

 from the ever-estimable xkcd

As we sublimate our similes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1254 that William of Rubruck, a Flemish Franciscan missionary and explorer, broke camp to begin the final leg of his journey to the court of the Great Khan at Karakorum.  William’s account of the trek, The journey of William of Rubruck to the eastern parts of the world, 1253-55: as narrated by himself with two accounts of the earlier journey of John of Pian de Carpine, is a masterpiece of medieval geographical literature comparable to the account of Marco Polo.

 The journey of William of Rubruck (source- and larger version)

 Your correspondent is himself headed back to Mongolia– not to Karakorum, but near enough– so regular service will be suspended until mid-April.

Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.

Genghis Khan

Written by LW

March 29, 2012 at 1:01 am

In Praise of “Other”: The Librarian as Film Star…

 

Is it any wonder that older friends and relatives abroad still ask, when learning that one is from the Western U.S.: do you know any cowboys?  Anyone with a sense of America formed from the movies that have been this nation’s leading cultural ambassador for most of the last century might well assume that we are a nation of wranglers, gangsters, reporters, and lawyers.

The invaluable Moira Finnie, blogger for TCM, moderator of the online forum Silver Screen Oasis and proprietor of the blog Skeins of Thought, strikes a blow for the unsung, singling out the librarian:

This rumination on work in the movies began while I was reading the new memoir, Quiet Please, (Da Capo Press). The author offers a look at the experiences of a young, male, very contemporary librarian named Scott Douglas from the other side of the reference desk…  One amusing section of the book concerned the fact that Douglas felt that there was a serious dearth of librarians as role models in the movies. Sure, to the average person, “Marian the Librarian” in The Music Man (1964) may be the quintessential movie librarian. You know the type, frosty on the outside, potentially a molten hottie and closet romantic on the inside, all the while that “Prof. Harold Hill” is hoping she’s really that “sadder but wiser girl” he’s hoping to find in the hinterlands of Iowa during his travels…

Except for Noah Wyle’s three made-for-tv excursions as…(dramatic pause)…the nebbishy but dashing “Flynn Carsen” in The Librarian movies, there do seem to be paltry few positive images of librarians in the movies, especially for males…

So begins a delightful survey of librarians on screen:  “One of the Invisible Professions.”

Library Science teacher Ann Robinson pausing for a reflective smoke with Gene Barry before the destruction of the human race proceeds in The War of the Worlds (1953).

 

As we refrain from unnecessary noises, we might recall that it was on this date in 1271 that Kublai Khan renamed his empire “Yuan,” officially marking the end of the Song Dynasty (though Southern Song wasn’t fully conquered until 1276) and the start of the Yuan Dynasty of (Mongolia and) China.  The Yuan Dynasty was a period of consolidation and centralization, and encouragement of science, technology, and trade, creating the China that Marco Polo found at the end of the Silk Road.  It was also the period during which China developed drama and the novel, and saw a marked increased in the use of the written vernacular.

Kublai Khan (source)

 

Written by LW

December 18, 2011 at 1:01 am

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