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I didn’t know we had one of those…

Isaac Newton’s death mask. And by “we” I mean the Royal Society.

Several were made at the time of his death. You have to be careful about that, as sculptors regularly touched them up.

Like the famous l’Inconnue de la Seine, which has been (I suspect) heavily recarved. Nobody simpers in death.

I have been fascinated with death masks ever since I had a life mask made of myself in plaster of Paris when I was about twelve. By my mother’s entire special education class.

This went about as badly as you imagine, but it’s a story that needs telling with a lot of hand gestures and mime. And sound effects.

Anyway, I escaped with my life. Not sure what happened to the mask, though.

Today is the anniversary of Newton’s death, March 20, 1726 (or 1727 in the newfangled Gregorian calendar that was coming into use in his lifetime). If you look closely, you can just make out the dent in his head left by that apple.

That’s Uncle B’s joke.

March 20, 2018 — 9:50 pm
Comments: 12

The Flintstones’ cartoons

cartoon

Moving images, prehistoric style. They’ve found a bunch of these things and the current thinking is that they were toys. The current thinking.

I really liked this article in Science News.

Thousands of objects, some over 20,000 years old, have been traditionally explained as having some nonobvious ritual or religious significance, because they were…weird and inexplicable. More recent analysis of some of the clay objects have shown tiny fingerprints: they were made by children. Others may well have been made by adults for children.

I’m sure our ancestors would seem super religious to us, or at least terribly superstitious, but not EVERYthing was a ritual object, for crying out loud. This buttresses nicely with my personal thesis that the Willendorf Venus (and her sisters) were porno.

Think about carrying that object in the pocket of your…caveman suit. It would be pretty, erm. Tactile.

February 12, 2018 — 9:39 pm
Comments: 6

Gone.

crazyeye

Welp, he’s gone. History’s most famous case of the Crazy Eye.

Y’all may recall I am (or used to be) muchly into True Crime, but I’ve never had much interest in Manson. He was a petty criminal who had spent more than half his life in prison when he was released in the late Sixties. He looked around at the shit going down and thought, “yeah, I can work with this.”

It’s not even certain whether he ever killed anyone his own self. He surely wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the famous murders. He egged other people on and mugged for the cameras.

A tiny, manipulative clown. And now he’s dead. Shame he lived so long.

And Mitchell has won the Dead Pool!

Good on yer, Mitchell. We shall reassemble here Friday for the next one. Which is good – I’ve got a seminar to go to Friday that includes four hours of car travel. I ain’t going to be fit to post.

November 20, 2017 — 8:13 pm
Comments: 19

Lady Weasel Poison-Fist

fist

Oooo…lookee what I have to play with! We have been loaned a suit of armor at work. It’s of modern manufacture, but it’s made for actual re-enactment use, so it’s properly articulated and very heavy.

You can see the six individual plates that make up each finger, for example, and underneath each is a leather loop that holds it in place. It’s the whole thing, head to toe. I’ve had on the helmet and gloves.

I’m itching to try out the whole kit, but it weighs around a hundred pounds, and I don’t think anyone would appreciate me going face first into the parquet with the fancy metal togs on.

November 9, 2017 — 10:24 pm
Comments: 15

Confirmed: Einstein was tight

einstein

In 1922, Einstein was in Tokyo giving a series of lectures. A courier delivered a message to him in his hotel and Einstein, who didn’t have any local currency in his pocket, took out a piece of hotel stationery and wrote, “Stilles bescheidenes Leben gibt mehr Glueck als erfolgreiches Streben, verbunden mit bestaendiger Unruhe” and gave it to the man in lieu of tip. It means, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”

Einstein had just won the Nobel and wasn’t super famous yet, so really this is like that one old auntie who gave you a piece of lame advice instead of a birthday present. Particularly as the Japanese man probably couldn’t read it.

Who knew Einstein wrote fortune cookies?

It worked out. Last week, the courier’s nephew sold the autograph for $1.56 million.

Oh, he also gave him a piece of paper that said, “Wo ein Wille ist, da ist auch ein Weg.” (Where there’s a will there’s a way.) Now, that’s just sad.

November 2, 2017 — 10:45 pm
Comments: 10

In praise of the messy

thekeep

I went to a lecture tonight. It revolved around a cache of hundreds of 18th Century personal letters that turned up in the back of a closet.

Think of this, O ye tidy folk — all the history we have comes from someone in the past who couldn’t bear to throw something away. However hard it is for us to believe it, everything you can see in the room where you are sitting will be interesting in a hundred years, fascinating in two hundred and a priceless antique in three.

The picture is from the About page of The Keep — the repository of the East Sussex Record Office where these letters (and thousands of other interesting documents) live. You probably don’t have any specific connection to East Sussex, but you can spend a merry hour or more plugging words into the search box and seeing where it takes you.

As promised, I shall be lame tonight, and even lamer tomorrow night. I’ve got an all-day seminar to go to, far away.

October 12, 2017 — 9:10 pm
Comments: 11

I saw the Flit!

whitgift

We went to Bateman’s today, home of Rudyard Kipling and the setting for my favorite Kipling book, Puck of Pook’s Hill (a collection of short stories about Sussex, and I loved it long before I lived here).

We’ve been to Bateman’s many times, you may remember, but this time there promised to be an exhibition of Arthur Rackham‘s illustrations for Puck of Pook’s Hill. Rackham is one of my all time favorite illustrators, this one one of my all time favorite books — perfect, yes?

Meh. They only had three original paintings and a few framed prints. The room was small and dark and the pictures were framed under shiny glass. Hard to see and underwhelming. They didn’t even have any Rackham books or cards in the gift shop.

I did get to see the original of this picture, though. It’s called the Dymchurch Flit, Dymchurch being a coastal town and “the flit” was the fairies leaving England forever. Chapter 22 of the book.

The story goes that the fairies got sick of our shit in the 1530s, during the nastiness of the Reformation. They turned up on Romney Marsh with their bags packed — Romney Marsh being a stick-out bit of coastline that is the furthest southeast you can go on the island without getting your feet wet. There they begged the Widow Whitgift to let her sons sail them away in a boat, and she did.

They came back after three days, but one son was blind and the other mute, so they never told anyone what they saw. You can read the chapter here, with some footnotes and explanation here.

Not my favorite Rackham painting and not viewed under the best conditions, but it’s always a thrill to see the original of a work that you know well from reproduction.

September 26, 2017 — 7:36 pm
Comments: 13

And then everybody lost their damn minds

bwbb

“Quite literally gobsmacked and raging to see this in Asda Huntly”

“This is so damaging and we cannot possibly still be spouting this nonsense to our children”

“In my opinion, this particular phrase perpetuates rape culture.”

Ah, don’t worry ladies. It’s not for sale any more. They sold out of them.

I’m generally pretty optimistic about human history. I believe the long arc of the species bends toward common sense, with a few unfortunate detours. But, just lately, I’ve been nagged by a disturbing thought: we are old. The people who believe this shit are young. When we are gone, they will still be alive.

Is this just cheap clickbait, or the shape of things to come? Please, if you have grandchildren, do everything in your power to corrupt them to the Old Ways. Our precious t-shirt slogans depend on it.

Good weekend, all!

May 19, 2017 — 9:15 pm
Comments: 8

Speak to me, Ozymandias!

pharoah

Another one to file in the “cool things you will never, ever find in your back yard” file. They drained some standing water in a Cairo slum and found this. They found most of the rest of it, too. They think it’s Ramses II (the Big Guy), and there’s probably more where that came from in that particular small and trash-strewn corner of the city.

You’ve probably seen this one, too — it’s all over the news tonight. But, hey — I’ve been upstairs painting chickens this evening.

By which I don’t mean applying coloring agents to Mapp. I mean painting teeny, weeny, tiny chook portraits. Rendering minute burbly wattles is fun! I’m’a spend my whole weekend doing it.

Hope your weekend is just as awesome!

March 10, 2017 — 10:44 pm
Comments: 13

Over the hills and far away

trumpatubby

I have no idea what will come, but today my friends are smiling and my enemies are glum. It beats the alternative.

Good weekend, everyone!

January 20, 2017 — 9:38 pm
Comments: 28