As of January 2019, Anatomy of Melancholy became Boxcar Thought Fox, a site for my new shop selling art, handmade books and toys, clothing, and cabinet curiosities.
As of January 2019, Anatomy of Melancholy became Boxcar Thought Fox, a site for my new shop selling art, handmade books and toys, clothing, and cabinet curiosities.
July 29-Aug 1
Painter Vincent Van Gogh (d. July 29, 1890). Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, 1885–86. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. His story has always struck me as particularly tragic. He attempted to dedicate his life to religion, becoming a Protestant pastor in Belgium, giving away all of his possessions to his community. His colleagues found his eccentricities alarming and overly zealous and told him he was ill-suited to their brotherhood. Apparently, it was after this terrible disillusionment that he turned to art at the suggestion of his younger brother Theo. Conceptual artist, or “artist of words,” Jenny Holzer (b. July 29, 1950). Untitled by Jenny Holzer. Filmmaker and photographer Chris Marker (b. July 29, 1921). The site dedicated to his work, Notes from the Era of Imperfect Memory, is worth checking out.
Painter Jean Dubuffet (b. July 31, 1901). Jean Dubuffet. Subway (Métro)1949. Painter and printmaker Erich Heckel (b. July 31, 1883). Portrait of a Man, woodcut by Erich Heckel, 1919; in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut. Photographer Gerda Taro (b. August 1, 1910). Anonymous portrait, July 1932. Artist and all-around-eccentric, Vali Myers( b. August 2, 1930). Portrait by Erica Parrott, 2015. Myers has been a muse to many, many fellow artists and musicians, and the main inspiration for Florence and the Machine‘s third album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful. In 1971, the multimedia magazine Aspen no. 9 published a letter to friends Diane & Shelley from Vali, with photographs. And finally, the painter Laura Knight (b. August 4, 1887). Her 1913 painting, Self-Portrait with a Nude, is below.
Highlights from the week of July 22-July 29
Director and actor James Whale (b. July 22, 1888). He made Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933), and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) among other classics. Publicity still of James Whale with the model of Frankenstein’s monster, Copyright Universal Studios, 1935Silent film actress Aileen Pringle (b. July 23, 1895). Pringle in 1952, photographed by Carl Van Vechten.
Jeopardy host Alex Trebek (b. July 22, 1940). The handprints of Alex Trebek in front of Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World’s Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Trebek is contracted to continue hosting Jeopardy through 2020, and he is in the Guinness Book of World Records for most game shows hosted. Golden Girl Estelle Getty (b. July 22, 1923-d.July 25, 2008). Photo: AFP / GETTY
Growing up, my friend Kristina started a delightful trend of starting any story with “Picture it, Sicily, 1922…”
For today: finish the story. And then turn that story into a Jeopardy question.
Now do that for everything you speak for the rest of the week. People will find it clever and refreshing I promise.
I am trying something new this week, in hopes to eventually move into a weekly post. While I am getting set up and trying to come up with a workable format, I am posting this first one in pieces.
For the week of July 22-July 28:
Artwork by Edward Hopper (b. July 22, 1882). From left to right, sketch for Nightime on the E Train (1918); paintings Early Sunday Morning (1930) Manhattan Bridge Loop (1928), Drug Store (1927).
Artwork, top: illustrator Virgil Finlay (b.July 23, 1914). I can’t post enough of his illustrations, they are all great so you can click here to see more. Painter and sculptor Alex Katz (b.July 24, 1927), Ada (1957).
Animator Ruthie Tompson was born in Portland, Maine (July 22, 1910). She worked for Walt Disney, and, as far as I can tell, she is still alive at the age of 108.
Maxfield Parrish (b.July 25, 1870). Purchased prints of his painting Daybreak have outsold The Last Supper. Apparently, Michael Jackson and then-wife Lisa Marie Presley recreated this portrait, posing semi-nude in the music video for “You Are Not Alone.” Hopefully, I am not alone in completely suppressing this memory. Let’s all keep doing so.
From left to right: Art Nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha (b.July 24, 1860). This is part of a design on a 100 koran note from 1920. Painter Jane Frank (b. July 25, 1918), uncredited photo, Aerial View No. 1 (1968), and Crags and Crevices (1961). Painter Eugene Martin (b.July 24, 1938), Self Portrait (1990), and Paranoia Stroll (2003). Marcel Duchamp (b.July 28, 1887). Portrait by Irving Penn, (1948) and A Propos de Jeune Soeur (1911) by Duchamp.
No descending staircases nude. Unless you are getting ready to recreate Daybreak.
Still to come: The Writers, The Scientists, The Entertainers, The Events, and more about your week.
George Romero died one year ago today. He made Night of the Living Dead. I guess those zombies are supposed to look scary, but to me, they just look like a horde of stepdads heading for the fridge in the middle of the night. And what’s with the one on the left? Did he just get back from a toga party?
Born on July 16th: Saint Clare of Assisi, 1194. Her feast day is August 11th and her patronage includes eye disease, goldsmiths, laundry, television, embroiders, gilders, good weather, and needleworkers.
Also poet Susan Wheeler, 1955; actress and dancer Ginger Rogers, 1911; and farmer and popcorn extraordinaire Orville Redenbacher, 1905. Also artist Charles Sheeler, 1883; journalist and civil rights activist Ida Wells, 1862; and elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver, 1925. When she was twenty years old, she worked at the Empire State Building. On July 28, 1945, what was to be her last day of work with her fiance was returning home from the war, she survived an elevator crash that dropped her 1,000 feet. She was working on the 80th floor when a B-25 bomber accidentally crashed into the building on the 79th floor. The blow caused the elevator car cables to snap and sent her into a 1,000-foot free fall. This plunge is still listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Although she never returned to regular work at the Empire State Building, five months later, she returned to the building and rode the elevator to the top.
For today: Interestingly, the 16th card in the tarot deck is The Tower, which the above AP photo kind of reminds me of. The card shows a tower being hit by lightning, and on fire, sometimes with people falling from it. The card is supposed to symbolize sudden destruction and violent change but like all tarot cards, and sudden change come to think of it, does not have to be an altogether sinister card.
Over the coming weeks, I am trying to make some progress on a book I have been working on forever. I will also try to keep up on posts, but if I miss days, that is why.
As far as what the 16th tarot card means for you, I predict you could and should soon have in your possession piles of exploding kernels, grains that truly teach us to not resist the violent change that could lead us to be something so much better, provided you also have butter. Hopefully, this will occur with one or more zombie movies in queue.
In an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole by hydrogen balloon, engineer and aeronaut S. A. Andrée, accompanied by engineer Knut Frænkel, and photographer Nils Strindberg took off from Spitsbergen, Norway on July 11, 1897. They flew for 65 hours, but a series of unfortunate events including flying directionless into heavy storms, they crash-landed onto pack ice in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.
They had flown about 495 km, and spent the next three months attempting to head back over frozen terrain, eventually landing on the deserted Arctic island of Kvitøya sometime in October. The three of them died there and their whereabouts were a mystery until 1930 when their bodies (and Strindberg’s photo plates) were found by chance. It is said that Andree ignored many potential flaws in his plan, including that the balloon had come from Paris directly after being made, had never been tested, and was showing serious signs of leaking. He also ignored concerns that his devised method of steering the balloon with a series of weighted ropes might not be as effective as he claimed (which turned out to be true).
Two Horse, One Horse, No Horse
The Lumière brothers demonstrated their invention of the cinématographe, the all-in-one camera, developer, and projector, to scientists July 11, 1895
Their first film is 46 seconds and is called Sortie de l’Usine Lumière de Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory in Lyon). This video shows all three versions, released about a year apart, in 1895, 1896, and 1897 respectively. Each version is often referred to by the number of horses seen in the shot.
Magician Harry Kellar was born July 11, 1849. Apparently, he was known as the “Dean of Magic,” and specialized in illusions that involved the use of apparatuses. Also, he talked Harry Houdini out of attempting to catch a bullet. Also if you click on that link, there is a picture of the two of them that makes Kellar look an awful lot like Houdini’s ventriloquist dummy.
Illustrator H.M. Brock was born July 11, 1875; followed by astronomer and author of Astronomy for Young Folks Isabel Martin Lewis in 1881; Russian painter Boris Grigoriev, in 1886; and writer E.B. White, in 1899. I trust you own The Elements of Style, yes?
Writer Alexander Afanasyev was born July 11, 1826. He published 8 volumes of Russian fairytales and folktales.
Chester Gilette murdered Grace Brown on July 11, 1906, inspiring Theodore Dreiser‘s An American Tragedy. Also on July 11; Big Ben rang for the first time in 1859, and Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in 1804. Remember back before there was a musical, and we all knew about those two was from the milk commercial?
Okay, I have to wrap this up, it isn’t even July 11th anymore.
Affirmation for your morning: It’s a wise dog that scratches its own fleas.
Hair of the dog that bit you: sheepdog
Number of horses in the shot: 1
On July 10, 1938, Howard Hughes began a 91-hour (3 days, 19 hours, and 17 minutes) flight around the world that set a new world record.
Born on July 10th: Painter Camille Pissarro, in 1831; creator of the daguerreotype, Louis Daguerre, in 1851; physicist Nikola Tesla, in 1856; writers Marcel Proust, in 1871 and Alice Munroe, in 1931; and musicians Béla Fleck, in 1958 and Jelly Roll Morton, in 1941.
July 10th is the birthday of Nancy Drew mystery writer Mildred Benson. She was born in 1905 and was the first of several writers who wrote under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene for the young adult mystery series.
On July 10, 1925, Meher Baba began his silence, which lasted 44 years, until his death in 1969. July 10th is known as Silence Day to those that follow his teachings.
On July 10, 1913, the atmospheric temperature in Death Valley, California hit the highest ever recorded on Earth: 134 °F (57 °C), measured at Furnace Creek. According to the 2010 Census, Furnace Creek has a population of 24. In case you are curious, the interests of the residents of Furnace Creek are represented by Republicans for both the state and federal legislature: Senator Tom Berryhill, guilty of money laundering in 2014; the clearly engaged still-Trump-supporter Congressman Paul Cook; and state assembly member Devon Mathis, who has allegedly been seen drunk on the job by former staffers, and much more troubling, accused of sexual assault. Sounds like we have stumbled accross the actual hell on earth?
For today: Nothing matters. Be quiet and eat a madeleine.
Physician and anatomist Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle was born July 9,1809. His essay On Miasma and Contagia survives as an early argument for germ theory. Before bacteria and virus were understood, diseases were thought to be caused by miasma, or “bad air.” The word comes from Greek mythology, where miasma seems to have been a cross between an infectious force and karma. Henle published works on the structure of the lymphatic system, the integumentary system, and their connection to the formation of mucus and pus.
The formation of pus is an immune response, creating a fluid of mostly dead white blood cells called neutrophils. Have you ever seen macrophages engulf bacteria? Or if you really want to shudder, you could watch this video of things magnified under an electron microscope.
Speaking of miasma, Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States, died July 9, 1850, from cholera morbus, or what those in my house call the squirts. His condition was surely not helped by the treatment of his White House physicians, who treated him with a combination of ipecac, calomel, opium, and quinine. In spite of a 1991 exhumation, no conclusive evidence was found to indicate he was purposely poisoned. Washington D.C. had open sewers at the time, and it is most likely he ate something contaminated at a July 4th celebration, where they were also fundraising for the Washington Monument, under construction at the time.
Also speaking of miasma, July 9th is the birthdate of O.J. Simpson, Courtney Love, and Donald Rumsfeld.
Coming back into the light, July 9th is the birthdate of painter David Hockney, photographer Minor White, neurologist Oliver Sacks, and poet June Jordan. Physicist John Wheeler was born July 9, 1911. His work is too vast to sum up here, but my favorite is his hypothesis of a one-electron universe.
July 9th is the feast day of Our Lady of Itatí, also known as the Virgin of Itatí. It’s also national sugar cookie day, a waste of an official day if ever I’ve heard one.
July 9th being filled with all of that bad air and pus, I think it is time that hypochondriacs have their day. It takes stamina to run from that black cloud day in and day out, and they deserve a shout out. More than the goddamned sugar cookie at least.
Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was published July 5, 1687.
Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, was born July 5, 1996. Astronomer A.E. Douglas was born July 5, 1867. He studied the connection of sunspot cycles and tree growth rings, founding modern dendrochronology. The study of tree growth rings reminds me of a New Yorker article published a few years ago, called The Really Big One by Kathryn Schulz. It is a fascinating piece about the Cascadia subduction zone, and the probability of earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest. I find tsunamis the most terrifying thing on earth, so I read the entire article with great interest a couple of times. There was an especially frightening part about the ghost forest, a group of dead but still standing trees standing in seawater along the Copalis River. These red cedars are estimated to be about 2,000 years old. In 1987, a couple of scientists analyzed samples of the trees’ growth rings and determined that the final rings were all in 1699, which lead to the confirmation that these remains are the result of a January 1700 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The description of the area, along with that history, makes me think it sounds like the creepiest, loneliest place on earth, and of course, I want to go there.
Moving on. Activist Clara Zetkin was born July 5, 1857. Creator of Calvin & Hobbes Bill Watterson was born July 5, 1958. Artist Chuck Close born was July 5, 1940. I read an interview with him once where he was talking about how he used sensory deprivation to commit things to memory. It sounded like a rather extreme and uncomfortable way to meet an objective, but interesting.
Physicist and inventor Charles Cagniard de la Tour died July 5, 1859. Inventor Nicéphore Niépce died July 5, 1833. He developed the technique of heliography, and created the oldest known photograph. Satirical poet Sasha Chorny died July 5, 1932. Painter Cy Twombly died July 5, 2011. Are you looking for new ways to irritate your friends with your hipster sophistication, yet feeling uninspired by the latest wares at Urban Outfitters? May I suggest a Cy Twombly shower curtain?
Methods of recording and understanding moments in time stick out to me as the common thread of July 5th. Early cameras, sensory deprivation, dendrochronology, copying a genome. What have you recorded about your life in unconventional and unexpected ways? Where is your ghost forest? I think it is time to visit and commit it all to memory.
Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity.
July 3rd is the first of 40 days known as the Dog Days of Summer. Ending on August 11th, these midsummer days are named for the time period where Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, follows the path of the sun.
Sirius is part of the Canis Major constellation, lower and to the left of Orion. In mythology, the name Sirius is used in a variety of stories, including as the dog of Icarus.
If you are a superstitious sort, you can expect bad luck, intense heat, abrupt thunderstorms, fevers, flooding, and a generally more ill-tempered population.
Wow, I think our luck is about to change. While researching canine symbology and derivatives of the name Sirius, I think I might have stumbled upon on something huge. Like New Testament or Star Trek: the Next Generation huge. Like they are blowing the lid off of all of everything and cracking it all wide open.
Good luck finding your way out of there.
Lucky number: 101
Affirmation: All dogs go to heaven
Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared on July 2, 1937, flying over the Pacific Ocean. Her plane took off at 12:00 midnight GMT from Lae Airfield in Papua New Guinea. Her last radio messages were received about 8 and half hours later.
Pluto’s fourth and fifth moons, Kerberos and Styx were named on July 2, 2013. Does anyone else find it eerie when planets and moons are named after things and places from the mythical land of the dead? I don’t believe in hell, but some part of that dark, silent, absolute zero space feels closer to my fear of what it might be if it actually did exist.
President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law on July 2, 1964. Civil rights leader Medgar Evers was born July 2, 1925. He was shot and killed by a white supremacist on June 12, 1963.
On July 2, 1900, the first Zeppelin flew over Lake Constance in Germany. One hundred and two years later, on July 2, 2002, Steve Fossett became the first person to fly a hot air balloon solo around the world. Astrologist and physician Nostradamus died on Saturday, July 2, 1566. Thomas Savery patented the first steam engine July 2, 1698. Writer Hermann Hesse was born July 2, 1877. Engineer Guglielmo Marconi received a patent for the radio July 2, 1897. Tennis player Jean-Rene Lacoste was born July 2, 1904. He created the polo shirt.
July 2nd is the 183rd day of the year. If 2018 were a play, the inciting incident has happened and approaching the turning point. In Aristotle’s Poetics, the middle of your story is the place “that which follows something as some other thing follows it.” We are working towards the end, the place “that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity or as a rule, but has nothing following it.” Make sense? Yeah, me either. I mean, I understand the words, but they aren’t inspiring me either.
So basically, if 2018 was the movie The Blob, admittedly, we’ve had a tough year. We’ve seen some shit, including the handyman getting sucked down the drain. The people in charge aren’t listening. No one is hungry anymore.
2018 has just come out of the walk-in freezer, and it’s time to come up with a plan. Your enemy is in the sewer. You have 183 days left, what are you going to do first? Beware of your fatal flaw.
French writer Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste was born June 29, 1900. He wrote The Little Prince.
Today is the third day in a row that I have started a post, put considerable time into researching, only to throw in the towel when I realize it is the end of the day and I still only have lists and scaps. Is everything feeling rushed and left half-done for you these days as well?
I was about to give up and hit close on this browser window, when I saw one the name of another person I had read about for today – Claude-Frédéric Bastiat, an economist born June 29, 1801. He wrote an essay called Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas (That Which We See and That Which We Do Not See) in 1850, which is known as the parable of the broken window. He argues that it does not make economic sense for societies to spend money to repair destruction. He works it out that spending money to repair, for example, a broken window, does not result in a gain to society, even if the glazier gets paid to replace a window. Basically, it is a libertarian appeal to consider opportunity costs.
Fine, fine – I don’t particularly agree with his assessment, but I see how he got there. Anyway, it got me thinking about sunk cost fallacies (the tendency to throw good money into a bad investment rather than walk away, because it is enormously difficult for people to abandon what they have put time and/or money into ). It did give me the resolve hit to select+ delete a whole page of work and just make a post about the writer of one of my very favorite books.
Aren”t we all just a sunk cost fallacy, getting worse for the wear year after year, but we perserve. If only to stick it a thorn in the side of all of those smug little misanthropes who walk around muttering about population control, and Darwin Awards, and about how we are overdue for a pandemic. In The Little Prince, as the prince cries and misses his rose, far away on his home asteroid B- 612, the fox says “It is the time you have lost for your rose that makes your rose so important.” We are all each our own sulking little rose, and the one who mourns for it.
As for insight and advice about what this means for the days ahead, I wrote it all down for you and put it in the box with the little sheep. You’re welcome.
It’s Seven Sleepers Day. Known as Siebenschläfertag, it’s basically German groundhog’s day. Folklore says that today’s weather predicts what the weather will be like in July and August.
Naturalist Thomas Say was born June 27, 1787. Considered the founder of descriptive entomology, he described at least 1.000 new species of beetles and published American Entomology: Insects of North America.
Astronomer Dr. Heber Doust Curtis was born June 27, 1872. His 1942 obituary from The New York Times says that during his career, he traveled all over the world to study and witness 11 solar eclipses. Coincidentally, NASA launched IRIS, a space probe designed to observe the Sun, on June 27, 2013.
Other June 27 birthdays: Composer Mildred Hill (1859); and actor Moroni Olsen (1889). Mildred Hill wrote a song called Good Morning to You, which became the melody to Happy Birthday. Moroni Olsen was the voice of the mirror, mirror on the wall in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
British chemist and mineralogist James Smithson died on June 27, 1829. Despite never having visited this county, he remarkably donated his estate to the United States. Specifically to Washington D.C. to found “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men,” to be named the Smithsonian Institute.
Swinging to the other side of the spectrum, controversial figure Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, and his brother Hyrum Smith were shot and killed by a mob in an Illinois jail June 27, 1844. His biography is far more captivating than I can describe here. I don’t have room to fully get into the mind boggling origins of this religion, which I only learned about in the past few years, but very briefly, Smith published The Book of Mormon after allegedly finding ancient Egyptian, golden engraved plates buried in New York. These were revealed to Smith by the prophet/angel Moroni. Somehow the book was transcribed by Smith using a complicated process using magic glasses, two transparent seeing stones, and a black hat Smith could stare into to see the words written in his mind’s eye.
At the time of his death, Smith was the mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois. Intending to set up a theocracy with himself as king, he ordered the town’s printing press destroyed. A riot ensued, and Smith declared martial law, and fled to a nearby town with his brother, where they surrendered to authorities on charges of instigating the riot. Amazingly enough, at the time of his death, he was also running for President of the United States. I wonder if they had had internet back then, would it have been more or less crazy than the current administration?
Just after midnight tonight is a Full Strawberry Moon. This full moon will be the lowest in the sky of all of the 2018 full moons. The low position and warm humidity tend to make June’s full moon appear honey colored. Saturn will also shine its brightest tonight. Lit up in exact opposition to the sun, it will be closer to the earth than any other time this year. It will rise in the sky with the moon, and, depending on the clarity of your skyline, you might even be able to see its rings.
Oh my god, I just realized the Mormon prophet and the Snow White voice actor have the same name. Do you think Moroni Olsen was a born-again Mormon prophet? Given tonight’s quite unusual and mystical planet alignment, here is what I want you to do:
Wearing the tallest hat you can find, put on your glasses, hold something made of clear glass to use as your seeing stone, and spin around in front of a mirror while singing Happy Birthday. Tear sheets out of your favorite book, and use the pieces as a symbolic offering, showing that you would be willing to destroy a printing press in the name of God. Actually, you should probably smash your smartphone and laptop too.
If you complete all of these steps with a pure heart, Moroni Olsen will appear to you. Tell him that you destroyed all of your technology and will therefore no longer be able to post selfies to Instagram. He will tell you the answers to these mysteries thrice:
1. If your glasses flatter your face shape
2. Whether or not you can pull off a hat
3. Using a ten-point scale, he will reveal to you if you are hot or not.
Also, can you ask him to confirm the weather for July and August? Thanks.
Igor Stravinsky’s opera Firebird opera opened in Paris on June 25, 1910. The firebird is a creature from Slavic fairy tale. The opera is a mix of this and another fairy tale called Koschei the Deathless, about a magician who cannot be killed like a mortal because his soul is separate from his body, inside a needle, hidden inside an egg in a duck, which is in a hare inside of an iron chest that is buried under an oak tree on an island.
June 25th is the birthday of illustrator and creator of Kewpies, Rose Cecil O’Neill, who was born in 1874. Writer Frigyes Karinthy was born June 25, 1887. He was the first person to introduce the concept of six degrees of separation, in the story Láncszemek (translation Chains). Writer George Orwell was born June 25, 1903. His given name was Eric Arthur Blair. Philosopher Willard VanOrman Quine was born June 25, 1908.
Belgian author and illustrator Pierre Culliford was born June 25, 1928. He is better known by his pen name Peyo, and he created The Smurfs. They started as a Belgian comic strip in 1958, and were called Les Schtroumpfs.
These pages are from the 1958 story Les Schtroumpfs Noir. In a nutshell, the plot involves a smurf getting bit by a poisonous black fly, who then has to run around biting and infecting other smurfs. So, basically a precursor to Night of the Living Dead.
Governor of Massachusetts John Winthrop of Massachusetts introduced the fork to colonial America. This factoid was listed on The Old Farmer’s Almanac and it seemed so improbable that this first has a documented anniversary, I had to investigate further. I did find it referenced in several places, including the book Colonial American History Stories – 1214-1664: Forgotten and Famous Historical Events by Paul Wyoming.
Jacques Cousteau died June 25, 1997. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died June 25, 2009. French philosopher Michel Foucault died June 25, 1984.
So, I am assuming you want me to summarize June 25th using six degrees of separation? Okay, starting backwards, an important focus of Foucault’s philosophical theory is primarily concerned with power and punishment. He died in 1984, which is the title of George Orwell’s novel, about a totalitarian society named Oceania. Jacques Cousteau explored the oceans. There are such a thing as zombie fish (we are going to assume this takes care of both Michael Jackson, and the Smurfs, which started as a comic). Speaking of comics Kewpie dolls started as a comic strip, and Farrah Fawcett starred in the following comic book:
Here we are going to make the very likely cognitive leap that somewhere there is a photo of Farrah Fawcett riding in, or sitting on, a Pontiac Firebird, a car that was first assembled in 1967, in Ohio. Do you know who else is from Ohio? Willard VanOrman Quine, who was born in Akron, Ohio, who, coincidentally, I am related to. Willard’s mother Harriet was the daughter of James, who was the son of Oliver, who was the son of James, who was the brother of John, my 4th great grandfather.
So, stick a fork in it, I’m done.
The summer solstice happened this morning. It’s the official start to the summer and the longest day of the year. June 21st is the birth date of two astronomical instrument makers, John Dolland and James Short, who were born in 1703 and 1710 respectively. Designed by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr, the Ferris Wheel was introduced at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago on June 21, 1893.
On June 21, 2006, the two newly discovered moons of Pluto were officially named. One is named for Hydra, the nine-headed lake monster who guarded the entrance to the Underworld. The other is named after the Greek goddess Nyx, goddess of night. She was born out of Chaos, and sister to Erebus, god of darkness. With her bother, she gave birth to Hemera, goddess of the day, and Aether, god of light. On her own, Nyx gave birth to many children, including daughters Keres, death spirits; twin boys Thanatos, god of Peaceful Death and Hypnos, god of sleep.
Reading about Nyx and her brood, and the personification of all of the blackest and most complex problems of being human felt apropos today. It was a rather sad day at my house. For many months I have been leaving little treats for my girls under the guise that they had special fairies who they grew to love as much as their own family members. This morning, my tracks weren’t covered as well as they should have been, one question lead to another, and facts unraveled, smothering all of the magic. I think I broke their little hearts.
More than that, I have been realizing the more time I spend online, the more powerless and overwhelmed I feel by all of the evil in the world, but especially in this country right now in the name of, I don’t even know, nationalism? It’s pretty horrifying. And when I get horrified, I shut down. I am trying to fight it.
For tonight, on the longest day of the year, in all of this light and dark, look up?
June 19th, also known as Juneteenth, marks the anniversary of the 1862 court ruling that prohibited slavery in the United States. It is also the anniversary of the 1964 approval of the Civil Rights Act. And then everything was solved forever.
German chemist and pharmacist Friedrich Sertürner was born June 19, 1783. He was the first person to isolate morphine. Speaking of a problem solved forever: morphine was sold commercially for a number of years, both as a pain reliever and as a treatment for opium addiction and alcoholism. Whoops.
Olympic swimmer and former world-record holder Helene Madison was born June 19, 1913. Moses Horwitz was born June 19, 1897. He is probably better known as Moe from The Three Stooges, a show that having to watch, in my opinion, is akin to torture. Speaking of insufferable entertainment, the comic strip Garfield debuted June 19, 1978. He hates Mondays, loves lasagna, and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the expanse of his of his unavoidable celebrity.
Artists John Heartfield was born June 19, 1891. Also born on June 19th: artist Mary Callery and baseball player Lou Gehrig, both in 1903; and socialite Wallis Simpson, in 1896. King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry her.
Professor of physics Silvanus Phillips Thompson was born June 19, 1851. Among his published works are the textbooks Calculus Made Easy, which explains the fundamentals of infinitesimal calculus (still in print), as well as a physics text titled Elementary Lessons in Electricity and Magnetism. Also, folk singer Nick Drake was born in 1948.
Do you ever have way too many things you want to tell people about, but not enough time to organize them and coherently present? That’s how I feel about today. I will have to let many factoids go, for now, seeds to plant on another day.
Today is the Catholic Feast Day of Saint Juliana Falconieri, O.S.M. She died June 19, 1341, and is the patron saint of the helpless, chronically ill and abandoned.
This post will now be abandoned, without formal closing or insightful observation, but ultimately protected by a saint so we will all be just fine.
If you must have further insight into today, or your life, or the ultimate path of mankind, you could probably consult the personal website of Laura Ingraham. She turns 55 today, and seems terribly thoughtful and well-rounded. Or at least, I bet she has a lot of empathetic responses to the opioid crisis. Or did Jared Kushner solve that one already?
Illustrator James Montgomery Flagg was born Jun 18, 1877. Astronomer William Lassell was born June 18, 1799. He discovered many moons of distant planets. Physician Charles Laveran was born June 18, 1845. By examining blood smears, he discovered parasitic protozoans as the cause of malaria. Youngest daughter of last Russian Czar Nicholas II, Anastasia Nikolaevna was born June 18, 1905. Economist and financial journalist Sylvia Porter was born on June 18, 1913.
Actress Nedra Voltz was born June 18, 1921. You should probably check out her acting credits on IMDb. She was in pretty much every American sitcom of the last generation for at least an episode or two. Right off the bat, there’s Duke’s of Hazzard, Webster, Alf, Mr.T, and Step by Step. (I have a dear friend who was an exchange student in Italy during high school, and she told me that the Italian translation of the title of Suzane Somers’ sitcom Step by Step was A Blonde for Dad). Anyway, Nedra Volz had an amazing career. Also she was in Earth Girls Are Easy, a 1988 movie starring Geena Davis and Julie Brown that I think about with surprising frequency.
Paul McCartney was born June 18, 1942, the same day as film critic Roger Ebert. Also, Isabella Rossellini was born ten years later, on June 18, 1952. Oz Fox, lead guitarist of the Christian glam metal band Stryper (how did I just learn they were a Christian glam metal band?) was born June 18, 1961. His wife for real runs a ministry in called Hookers for Jesus, which is sincerely awesome.
I’ve been away for a few days and my sights into your week are cloudy. To give an accurate reading, you will need to have blood and stool samples checked for parasites. Please leave a callback number and someone from the lab will get back to you within 48 hours.
June 14th has a lot about America in the history lists. It’s the birthday of the US Army. est. 1775. Two years later, the Continental Congress approved the Stars & Stripes for the U.S. Flag. So it is also Flag Day. Pennsylvania is the only place to acknowledge it as an official state holiday. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed the bill into law the added “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.
June 14th is the birthday of organic chemist and inventor Fred Baur, born on June 14, 1918. He applied for a patent for the Pringles can in 1966. Some sites say he invented the recipe too, but it seems like this honor goes to Alexander Liepa. Anyway, when Fred Baur died in, his family honored his request and at least partially buried him in a Pringles can which is objectively pretty awesome.
In 1989, Queen Elizabeth II granted honorary knighthood to Ronald Reagan. Did you buy those paper dolls I told you about? Because now would be an excellent evening to reenact and maybe even draw some new outfits for him.
Speaking of presidents, ol’ 45 turns 72 today. I am sure he is doing something expensive and uninspiring. Maybe you should send him a can of Pringles?
You have 10 minutes and then pencils down.
How did you do? I bet you got more than the President. Unless you just filled it in with the names of strippers you know of in all 50 states. Then he might have more than you.
Learning about investing and money markets is tough. I know retirement age and the quick slide into senility is appearing over the horizon like the Grateful Dead skull on top of your vintage VW bus. You are taking stock, depreciating in value faster than a Nissan Juke. You haven’t saved as much as you should have, and you didn’t listen when Alex Jones told you to buy gold.
Now the shelves of your fallout shelter are bare. The market is volatile, you still don’t know what bitcoin is, and your kids don’t return your text messages.
Never fear! As a certified personality appraiser, I am here to help. Over the next few weeks, I want to find out a little bit about you and your savings goals, but I know how motivating a little momentum can be, so I am going to give you some quick tips on what you can do right now to increase your resale value. With an open mind, a refrigerator lock,and minimal upfront cost, you can be on your way to exponentially increasing both your curb appeal and your bottom line!
Ready to get started? Great!
First and foremost, you are going to need to cultivate a new look. As everyone knows, the foundation is the most important, and that’s where shape wear comes in!
Find the Right Pants for Your Body Shape
I know, with the fruit-to-waist conversion charts, swiftly changing trends, and vanity sizing, finding clothes that fit your body type is confusing and hard! Technology has advanced to give us smart wearables to custom fit your clothes, but they can be pricey, and there is just not an established return on that investment yet.
Over the next few weeks, we will cover “staging,” and your personal brand, as well as how to increase your social media presence, but for now, let’s open another bottle of wine and focus on the low hanging fruit.
Seriously, you are going to need to pretend to have interests. Dieting and watching The Real Housewives don’t count.
You could start with the usuals: yoga, biking, hiking, learning the pros and cons of kitchen tiling. Find and discuss your Myers Briggs personality type. People are very interested.
But don’t squander this opportunity to cultivate some mystery! Learn how to carve soap; eat competitively, or file lawsuits recreationally. Google and amateur message board experts will be with you every step of the way!
I recommend starting some inspiration boards. I like Pinterest because it is an easy, fun way to keep track of your lies and meet new friends who share your feigned interests!
Or, if you’d rather:
Our Hermit Desert Fathers
Engineer John Roebling was born June 12, 1809. He designed the Brooklyn Bridge, but he never saw his vision realized, as he died a year before the bridge started construction.
The first horror movie to use three-strip Technicolor, Dr. Cyclops began shooting June 12, 1930 with King Kong director Ernest Schoedsack. Set in the Peruvian jungle, the plot of the movie appears to be a sort of horror-version precursor to Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Dr. Thorkel, aka Dr. Cyclops, is shrinking things in a radiation chamber. Also, he owns a cat named Satanus. You can rent it on Amazon for 99 cents. I can think of worse ways to spend 76 minutes. If you find out why they are all dressed in togas, let me know.
Hell, Upside Down
Also born on June 12: historian Charles Kingsley in 1819; painter Egon Schiele in 1890; and photojournalist Ascher Feiling, better known as Weegee, in 1899. His name, phonetic of Ouija, was either his own rebranding or a nickname given to him by someone early in his career. While working as a freelance street photographer, it’s said, as if by premonition, he frequently arrived at emergencies and crime scenes only moments after authorities.
Also born on June 12: Astronomer David Gill in 1843; ballerina Marina Semyonova in 1908; and Anne Frank in 1929.
Suspended Strait Jacket Escape
On June 12, 1923, Harry Houdini performed an escape act in New York City, hanging upside down in a straitjacket, 40 feet from the ground. Also, over at Yankee Stadium, the New York Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians 8 to 4.
On June 12. 1967. the Supreme Court, ruling on the case Loving v. Virginia, declared unconstitutional any state law prohibiting interracial marriage.
I looked through some words of wisdom from the Desert Fathers to see if I could find anything inspiring for today. I didn’t find anything that particularly spoke to my Tuesday afternoon sensibilities, but I did stop to ponder this one: “A man who keeps death before his eyes will at all times overcome his cowardliness.” I can say confidently, as someone who considers risks and calculates the probability of certain death 100% of my days, these words are categorically untrue. Unless I am doing it wrong?
Thanks to E. L. Wordworderer for editing today’s post. I finished yesterday’s post late and didn’t send for proofreading. Regrettably, as my husband pointed out this morning, I twice wrote Godfellas instead of Goodfellas. Two times. I wonder what a mafia man from heaven looks like. It has the potential for a comic book. He’s going to need some buddies. And an alter ego. And a cat named Satanus. Incidentally, Henry Hill died on today’s date in 2012, from heart disease. He had turned 69 the day before.
The Old Farmers Almanac says today is the best day to end a project, so I guess it’s time to throw in the towel. Unless it’s a weaving project. St. Onophrius wants you to see that one through. Also, go check your backyard – I think your kids are in the weeds.
Inventor Edwin Armstrong gave the first public demonstration of FM radio on June 11, 1935, in Alpine, New Jersey.
Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron was born on June 11, 1815. French physicist Charles Fabry was born June 11, 1867. He and Henri Buisson discovered the ozone later in 1913. You know that weakened protective shield made up by the liberal elite to sell newspapers? That one.
Poet Renee Vivien was born on June 11, 1877. Musician Carmine Coppola was born in 1910. You have probably heard his work in many of his son’s movies, including The Godfather trilogy. Marine biologist Jacques Cousteau shares the exact same birthday. Ballerina Beryl Grey was born on June 11, 1927.
Painter William Baziotes was born June 11, 1912. Football coach Vince Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913. Are you like me and only know his name because of the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop on the New Jersey Turnpike?
Actor Gene Wilder, probably best known to anyone born after 1975 as Willie Wonka, was born June 11, 1933. Have you rewatched this movie as an adult? Because the Candy Man song is super creepy. Also, I found myself rooting for Veruca, or at least actively rooting against Charlie. Z.Z. Top drummer Frank Lee Beard turns 68 today.
Actress Adrienne Barbeau was born June 11, 1945. She was in The Swamp Thing. Remember that movie, the one where she falls in love with a human grape leave roll? May we all one day know a love so true.
Mobster Henry Hill was born on June 11, 1943. You’ve seen Goodfellas a hundred times too, right? One of my friends made the astute remark that the movie Overboard is one that you will always stop and watch on television, but you will rarely if ever see it the whole way through in one sitting. I think the same about Goodfellas. Though TV isn’t really a thing anymore, is it? Not related, but sort of related, my six-year-old daughters used an old-fashioned landline for the first time this weekend. One of them was dialing and she made a face and said: “It’s making a really weird noise Mom.” I said “That’s called a dial tone,” and felt as ancient as Methuselah.For tonight: I’ll meet you in New Jersey. We’ll smoke a pack of Old Golds and listen to Bon Jovi on the F.M. Wear a lot of hairspray, the ozone layer is fine.
Ectoplasm and Enumeration
The Art of Statistics
On June 8, 1887, Herman Hollerith, founder of the company that was to become IBM, applied for patent #395, 781 for his punched card calculator for what he called the Art of Compiling Statistics. His innovation would cut the processing time of the 1890 census considerably and set the stage for his many later inventions.
On June 8, 1949, an FBI report, sourced by “confidential informants,” listed names of suspected Communist Party members, including Helen Keller, Dorothy Parker, Danny Kaye, Fredric March, John Garfield, Paul Muni, and Edward G. Robinson; the very same day George Orwell’s novel 1984 was published.
Ghostbusters was released on June 8th in the actual year 1984. According to Pew research, 18% of Americans have seen a ghost. People alive right now only represent 7% of all the people that have ever lived.
Ghost in the Machine:
I have always loved the description of ghosts in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (this is for real my favorite book, in spite of previous admissions).
June 8th is the birthday of many shining stars, including Kayne West, Barbara Bush, Frank Lloyd Wright, Nancy Sinatra, and Joan Rivers.
In a bit of French history I just learned, Robespierre attempted to launch a new religion in post-revolutionary France with the first national festival of the Cult of the Supreme Being on June 8, 1794. I am hoping something got lost in translation with that name. Unfortunately for Robespierre, it did not catch on, and he was sent to the Guillotine a little more than a year later.
Sincerest of thanks to E.L. Murdworderer, who has edited my last few posts, and deserves all of the credit for the noticeable reduction in post typos, and none of the blame for any that still linger.
For the weekend:
Watch the Ghostbusters series while eating s’mores, adding marshmallows exponentially depending on which one you are on.
Want to do some sleuthing yourself? Here is a helpful blog post that I did not write about pragmatically using statistics to hunt for ghosts. For all those ghost sightings, the supernatural didn’t make the top 10 of America’s top fears in 2017. You’re going to be just fine. From ghost attacks that is. The rest of it is anybody’s guess.
Today is the first day of Vestalia, a nine day festival in Ancient Rome to celebrate the goddess Vesta,the virginal goddess of the hearth, home, and family. She is the daughter of Roman god Saturn and goddess Ops, who loosely correlate with the Greek Titans Cronus, Rhea, and daughter Hestia. During this festival, in hopes of blessings of fertility, Roman women would pay her tribute by walking through the city barefoot and leaving offerings at her temple, which was only open once a year during these handful of days. Also donkeys were trotted out and decorated with garlands. Because nothing says fecundity like virgins and donkeys.
I don’t know where this photo originally came from. I got it from a 2014 blog post written by someone named Gumbo, taglined “stirring the pot,” complaining about Obama and the EPA. Other recent headlines include Going Mad: “Climate change” has run its course and You’ll want to watch The Donald on this one. No, Gumbo. I won’t. I really won’t. I don’t want to watch “The Donald” do anything. Actually, I was totally ready to tell you all that I slept on it, and there wasn’t any question I want answered badly enough to feel okay about the experiments in yesterday’s post so I must have empathy after all, but I would totally shove food into someone else’s stoma if I could make Donald Trump’s presidency go away.
Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration
I gave into temptation and ordered my genetic profile from AncestryDNA. What’s more, I downloaded the raw data and ran it through Promethease, a website that will analyze your genome and then give you pages and pages of your genetic traits and mutations matched to current and generally reliable medical evidence on certain health risks and disease susceptibility of the individual findings, good and bad. I was absolutely ready to take my results with a grain of salt, as I am not specialized enough by even the kindest of estimates to interpret much of the individual findings, and their relationship to each other. I know individually each gene is just an indicator on a path of a million other variables. Still, one result gave me pause.
What the hell does that mean?
I have been told by people who don’t know me well that I can seem aloof, but I don’t see myself that way. I don’t want to crush my opponents in the dirt, and generally, seek harmony in my relationships. I would go so far as to say I even care about the well being of others. In fact, one of my worst qualities is a tendency to gush when I am nervous, and sometimes I have to fight an instinct to give someone a hug or otherwise attempt to put them at ease. When I do regrettably give into those awkward instincts, I sometimes have an out-of-body experience, rolling my eyes back at myself. “Quit it,” I tell myself, “you look like an idiot.” But what if I have it wrong, and what I think I am fighting is not actually empathy at all, just a mishmash of fear, embarrassment, and overall social inhibition without any real underlying altruism?
It is with this basis that I began researching the historic markers of June 6th., and came across this especially unsettling tale. Today in 1822, a man named Alexis St. Martin was accidentally shot in the abdomen, and tended to by an army surgeon named Dr. William Beaumont, and was not at all expected to survive the injury. Surprisingly, he did, and so began a decade of scrutiny and experimentation on this very lucky or very unlucky patient. Dr. Beaumont noticed early on that when St. Martin ate, sometimes food would ooze out of his open surgical wound. Immediately recognizing an opportunity, the opening was accidentally-on-purpose kept open to heal into a permanent fistula or small opening directly from his skin into his stomach. It appears the good doctor then signed the bankrupt and illiterate 19-year-old into what sounds like indentured servitude and took advantage of the close proximity to attempt more hands-on research on him.
To understand more about the process of digestion, the physician would tie little pieces of food to string and insert them into St. Martin’s stomach. He would periodically pull them out to witness digestion in action, as well as extract gastric juice into cups to watch food breakdown. All while having the bonus as of St. Martin doubling as a handyman, to chop firewood and what not. Sounds almost like Prometheus or some other punishment out of a Greek tragedy.
Dr. Beaumont published of his research in the 1833 volume entitled Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice, and the Physiology of Digestion. Recognized as the founder of physiologic research on digestion, at least nine institutions are named in his honor. For St. Martin’s contribution, when he died in 1880, his family delayed his burial, allowing his body to decompose longer than usual, in hot weather, for fear that the physicians whose autopsy requests had been refused, would dig him up. They also made the grave eight feet deep just in case curiosity got the better of any member of the very interested medical community. Doesn’t sound like the actions of an exploited family to me.
So, I am wondering if I could do what Dr. Beaumont did. Would I be able to pursue an answer to a question at the expense of another’s pain, or at least extreme discomfort? I want to say 100% no, but I am going to have to sleep on it to make sure. I am surely not that curious about gastroenterology, but is there a question I want to be answered badly enough? Maybe, if what I have considered empathy in myself is completely wrong, and I am only motivated to manipulate emotions I am uncomfortable with? Surely if robots are being programmed to fake empathy, so could also make a good approximation without actually having any.
While I examine this new question of inherent identity (with or without bits of food on a string) I am going to outsource further insight or advice on your day.
Bedtime for Bonzo
This morning, in a perfectly fine mood, making coffee, I think I got a message for you. As I reached for a mug, I found that, completely unconsciously, I had been singing Is That All There Is? (I have always preferred the PJ Harvey version). Being somewhat unexpected for my otherwise quiet Tuesday morning, I figured it must be a sign for you. Are you feeling somewhat apathetic today? Well then, let’s jump in.
Deep sea diver, and co-inventor of the bathysphere, Otis Barton, Jr. was born June 5, 1899. If you want to learn more about a bathysphere, click on this link to Popular Mechanics, published October, 1930.
Pancho Villa was probably born on June 5, 1878. Philosopher and mathematician Dr. Elena Cornaro, the first woman in the world to receive a Ph.D., was born on June 5, 1646. Astronomer and mathematician John Couch Adams was born June 5, 1819. Using only mathematics, he predicted the existence and placement of Neptune. Let me repeat that: using only mathematics, he predicted the existence of an unknown planet. That is bananas.
Also born today in 1905, Superman cartoonist Wayne Boring. Oh, and Mark Wahlberg. In recognition of his special day, here is a link to one of my favorite SNL skits Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals. Remember this one from like ten years ago? Still funny.
Writer O. Henry died today in 1910. Mel Torme died on June 5, 1999, and Ronald Reagan died today in 2004. Maybe you can keep his memory alive with some Tom Tierney’s Ronald Reagan paper dolls? I absolutely own them, and I will confirm they are a worthy purchase.
So, are you still feeling apathetic? Maybe you need your colors done?
Still feeling blue? I think you need a change of scenery. If your day was an international airport, its abbreviation would be airport abbreviation generator.
Now don’t go and buy a ticket or anything; this is no time for impulsive travel, we are on the brink of a recession. Just change your desktop background and tell people you went there. (Don’t worry, they won’t ask to see the rest of your vacation pictures; no one ever wants to see your vacation pictures, especially if it was in the mountains.)
Plus what to serve at your funeral
Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier gave the first public demonstration of their hot balloon, called the montgolfière, with great success today in 1783. Exactly one year later Élisabeth Thible, dressed as the goddess Minerva, became the first woman to fly in an untethered hot air balloon. Their balloon was named La Gustave in honor of the visiting Swedish King and flew in the air for approximately two and a half miles at nearly 5,000 feet.
In 1876, via the First Transcontinental Railroad, the Transcontinental Express train arrived in San Francisco, California, 83 hours and 39 minutes after departing New York City. June 4th is also the anniversary of a breakthrough in automobile travel. Henry Ford successfully test drove his first gasoline-powered automobile, the Ford Quadricycle, today in 1896.
Now I feel compelled to see if I can find any historic events for ships or airplane. Oh yeah. Some really shitty ones. You can take your pick. Oh, and this happened today in 1989. I should know better by now than to get all optimistic about history.
Chemist and short story writer for Weird Tales was born in 1873. Today is also the birthday of writer and illustrator Wendy Pini. And Dr. Ruth Westheimer was born in 1928. Better known to you as Dr. Ruth. (I bet you didn’t know her last name either. Or that she is indeed still living, that little spitfire).
Okay, so wrapping up your Monday with a few inspiring travel tales, and a lot of reminders about why mankind is the worst, the question you should be asking yourself: What color is your parachute?
Not because you need career advice but because clearly, you had better find one before we crash land. Would you like to make some Mormon Funeral Potatoes: The Carb-Heavy Meal For The End of The World?
Wow, this post got dark really quickly. How about a link to the most useless quiz ever created: Are You Prepared for a Global Apocalypse? Find out with this quiz. Then go eat the potatoes.
The Anonymous Head In A Jar
Archaeologist Flinders Petrie was born in 1853. I bring him up here not to celebrate his mass plundering of Egypt, nor his horrifying pro-eugenic views, but because he donated his head to the Royal College of Surgeons in London. Shortly after his death in 1942, during the pinnacle of World War II, his head was stored in a jar in the basement of the college, and they kind of forgot about it. You can see where this is going; the label fell off, and for many years, it was just the unknown head in a jar. Eventually identified, it is still stored at the college, but not, thankfully (?) on display. A little bit, I want to write them and ask what their long term plan is there, but never matter. Don’t you think it has a tiny bit of comic mythology? The arrogance and entitlement he clearly enjoyed during his own life, and the hubris that must have been involved in deciding that the world of science would surely need to study his brain, only end up anonymous, in a jar. Definitely Greek myth territory. Or maybe a Tim Burton movie. Go draft that screenplay.
Thank God for Lili St. Cyr
June 3rd is the birthday of the founder of Oldsmobile Ransom Olds; King George V; painter Rauol Dufy; singer and dancer Josephine Baker; blues singer Memphis Minne; actor Tony Curtis; burlesque dancer Lily St. Cyr; and poet Allen Ginsberg. You know the guy that saw the best minds of his generation destroyed by madness starving hysterical naked, blah blah blah, they-lived-on-a-plane-you-can’t-even…. Sorry, he probably doesn’t deserve that, I just have met too many egotistical writers who worship him. Actually, as a founding member of the Beats and the cult of cool, he probably deserves it a little bit. But it could be worse. He could have written On the Road.
If I could find it, I would absolutely post a picture of myself in a train station when I was 22, pretending to read the copy of On the Road that my friend and I bought for that specific purpose when we were traveling, where doesn’t matter. In mockery of, again it doesn’t matter, let’s just say the many self important artists and writers we knew at the time. But truthfully, all of us were terribly self important when I was 22. I am so glad the internet didn’t exist yet.
June 3rd is the birthday of The Gong Show creator and host Chuck Barris. He also created massively popular game shows The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, the hilarious objectives of which, I don’t know humiliate people in return for appliances?
For the week:
All of this talk about supercilious swagger, and games, and world conquering has strangely reminded me of a stray bit of advice from my father when we were children. In celebration of the wide array superiority described above, this is how I would like you to plan and approach your week:
Shortly before my older sister started softball, our father sat her down to make sure she understood the rules of the game. To make sure she knew everyone was there to learn the sport, have a good time, and make new friends you ask? No. To make sure she understood that her primary objective here is “to crush your opponent in the dirt.”
For today: You heard the man, go crush your opponent in the dirt.
If you are still in your twenties, this isn’t for you. You have your whole life ahead of you. Keep Instagramming and going to NYU. For the rest of us struggling, older, non-geniuses:
I wasn’t going to write today, because, well remember yesterday, I told you I have two jobs? And not enough hours in the day. I also have poems, and paintings, and cartoons, and a couple half-finished novels I want to work on. I am interested in too many things to pick a lane, so I have been swerving around the highway like an entitled, gin-soaked, chief executive my whole life. Which is to say, with little regard to my health, future, or anyone else. In general, I am average. I am talented, but not crazy so. I am pretty, but probably not more than, I don’t know, name ten attractive people you know. Which is to say, I have chin hairs and cellulite-since-I-was-11 just like everyone else.
All of this is to say, I am incredibly lucky. I have a family, and a house, and willing to keep a certain amount of revolving credit card debt to pursue my interests. But I have been trying to stick to doing something creative everyday (writing, drawing,painting), and have stuck with it most of this year. But as someone who also has two jobs, and likes to go outside every so often, it has to be little by little, which can be frustratingly slow and non-impressive.
A couple of years ago, one of my friends shared with me some financial advice her very wealthy grandfather (who may or may not have murdered his business partner) shared with her: pay yourself first. He told her this to get her investing – when she gets paid, she puts some money into an investment account first. This stuck with me too, and I have tried to apply it to both my time and my money. I buy small amounts of stock when I get paid because it is good advice. I am a non-saver. I will just transfer it back to checking when things run short in a couple of weeks. And it makes me feel terribly sophisticated to say I am a stockholder (who has recently had a $17 return on each of the shares of Okta I have been hoarding like tiny walnuts).
So that’s my version of a Tony Robbins moment. I try to apply this crazy, greedy. old man’s advice to both my money and my time. As someone who values sleep, and has two little girls that still want to spend time with me over anything else, it’s really goddamn hard. But I keep getting up every day and write myself a check, in hopes that something will stick and someday I can write for a living. And/or make enough money to install a swimming pool.
So, it’s June 2nd. Today in 1910, Charles Stewart Rolls, co-founder of Rolls-Royce, became the first person to cross the English Channel and back by plane. He sounds like a prime example of an entitled, lane-swerver whose confident persistence you could emulate. Or if you are looking for a more eccentric role model, maybe P.T. Barnum, whose circus started their first tour today in 1835.
Today is also the Feast Day of Saint Elmo, of Saint Elmo’s Fire fame. He is the patron saint of mariners, the Italian cities of Gaeta and Formia, women in labor, and is invoked against infant colic, intestinal disease, and cattle pests. That is a multi-tasker if ever I have heard one.
For today: Pay yourself first
Chance of rain: 50/50
Writer and antiquarian Scipione Maffei was born June 1, 1675, in Verona. His play Merope is credited with revitalizing Verona theater. He also wrote and published histories of ancient Italian civilizations, apparently in a sort of competition with a worthy foe, Antonio Francesco Gori. His bio says he published “running skirmishes in print with his rival in the field of antiquities” I would watch a reality television show about this I think. And then the follow-up season could be the embittered story of the fight between two printing press owners over the Dove typeface. I know this probably sounds boring, but really it is kind of a fascinating tale of about a man named Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson who slowly tossed his life’s work over a bridge into the Thames River. That is commitment, my friend.
June 1st is also the birthday of photographer Clementina Maude; actress Marilyn Monroe; and cosmonaut Georgy Dobrovolsky. Dobrovolsky was one of three men who died in space in 1971 on the spacecraft Soyuz 11. There might be something there to write about, the first and only men to die in space (as opposed to in takeoff or landing). There is something kind of haunting about that.
Ann B. Davis, better known to you as Alice on The Brady Bunch, died today in 2014. I have to wrap this up because I have another job to clock into. But if you are free tonight, maybe watch A Very Brady Christmas? That’s what I will wish I was doing. Sighs.
For the weekend:
Work on your own Dove typeface, the thing that represents you and only you so much that you would throw it over the Hammersmith Bridge to keep anyone else from having it. Metaphorically or otherwise.
Who is in charge of this ship?
Big Ben began ticking May 31, 1859. The Johnstown Flood drowned 2,200 residents in Pennsylvania after a dam burst in 1889. The last Ford Model T was produced today in 1927.
May 31st is the birthdate of poet Walt Whitman. Julius Petri, of Petri dish fame,was born in 1852. Did you know that, statistically speaking, the microbes in your body probably weigh more than your brain?
John Ringling, co-founder of the Ringling Brothers Circus was born in 1866. To celebrate, my I suggest the Bug Circus, which I am in no way affiliated with, just a fan.
Today is the Catholic feast day of Saint Petronilla. Her story is truly weird. She may or may not have been the daughter of Saint Peter, who I think cured her of palsy, prized her for her beauty and virginity, and possibly kept her locked in a tower to hide her away from marriage. She she died of a hunger strike (unclear if she was trying to get away from marriage or angry that she couldn’t ). She is depicted in various ways, including “an early Christian maiden with a broom,” or also receiving the dead into heaven, or sometimes as “a woman with a dolphin.” She is the patron saint of the French dauphins, as well as “mountain travelers, treaties between Popes and Frankish emperors, [and] invoked against fever.” Well, glad all those loose ends were tied up there in the end, yes?
Today’s meditation: there is no you
Dinner: circus peanuts
Hidden talent: breathing fire
Back to the bugs.
Karl Fabergé was born in 1846. You know the guy that made the ornate eggs for Russian royalty with all those shiny things? Kind of like the crab in Moana, but fancier. This year our daughters asked why we dye eggs at Easter, and of course I had to look it up and give them the whole history (they weren’t that curious). Possibly as far back as the 13th century, Christians have Easter eggs to celebrate life and renewal. And traditionally, they dyed them red to symbolize the blood of Christ. Gross. As we celebrate the holiday for zero of the faith, and 100% for the candy, we soon moved onto more important matters at hand. As far as they are concerned, God is some guy who lives down the street in a house called church, which is to say they think he is a cross between a superhero and a wizard, and owns a lot of real estate. It can make for some uncomfortable family visits, and some arbitrary Christmas decorations (all pluses in my book).
Also born today: chemist Joseph W Kennedy, who co-discovered plutonium; actor Mel Blac, the voice of many of your childhood memories; writer Millicent Selsam, who in addition to the award winning Biography of an Atom, wrote a number of children’s books about science. And Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles turns 56 today. That seems like a brew for a dynamic and colorfully comic day, no? Maybe a stage play?
You sunk my battleship:
Joan of Arc was burned at the stake today in 1431. Here is one of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs.. Also Alexander Pope died today in 1744, and Voltaire in 1778. Wilbur Wright of Wright Brothers fame died in 1912, and Milton Bradley died today in 1911.
Remember the other day when I told you about all of the terrible media I will happily consume? Well I was driving home a little while ago, and listening to the radio because sadly, in my car it is the only option, and that awful Goo Goo Dolls song from the mid 1990’s came on, and it is of course one of the songs I will listen to in spite of myself. I don’t know what it is called, but the words are something like “I don’t want the world to see me, because I don’t think that they’d understand…” Anyway, I realized that every time I hear this song, I think of Meg Ryan getting hit by a bus. I won’t look this up on the internet because I don’t want facts to ruin it, but I am under the impression she was in a movie in the 1990’s that has Angels in the title, and as this song plays, she is riding down a hill with her eyes closed and her arms outstretched, and she gets hit by a bus. I am under this impression because I never saw it, someone just gave me a synopsis, and the image I suppose comes from a movie trailer. So, is this what really happened in that movie? I don’t ever want an answer, because, either way, that is some funny shit.
Today’s lucky numbers: 14 and 31, and however many squares there are on a checkerboard. I don’t feel like counting.
What came first, the chicken or the egg? The egg guys. It’s always going to be the egg. Also did you know that chickens are tiny dinosaurs?
On May 29, 1953, Edmund Hillary of New Zealand and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay of Nepal became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Because I have already confessed to you that this is my favorite novel, I will give a moment of solemn contemplation for the anniversary of this accomplishment …
and then I will let the sweet, sweet poetry of the first page of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls say what I could never say:
Do you think Edmund Hillary was thinking about Lyon Burke when he reached the top too?
Tonight’s full moon is known as the Full Flower Moon, as well as Mother’s Moon, Milk Moon, and Corn Planting Moon. Also according to The Old Farmers Almanac, today is the last good day for fishing until June 13th. It’s also a good day to accept a proposal, but not to do laundry. Clothes washed for the first time today won’t last. Do they pull these out of a hat? Apparently, parasites’ proliferation rate goes up during a full moon, but don’t worry, there are lots of resources to do a full moon parasite cleanse. I love humans.
Tell ‘Em Large Marge Sent Ya
Today is the birthdate of Bob Hope, physicist Peter Higgs, and composer Danny Elfman. He wrote most of the music for Tim Burton movies. How could it be that I am just learning that Pee Wee’s Big Adventure was a Tim Burton movie, and not only that but his first? Also La Toya Jackson, and Ebenezer Butterick. He made an industry out of printing paper patterns for making clothes. Delightful writer G.K. Chesterton was born on today’s date in 1874. This website has a collection of his witticisms.
Word of the day:
Today’s palindrome: butt tub
Today’s fortune cookie message
Magic 8 ball says: Nope
The Days Before Twitter (does that make me sound really old, or only medium old?)
Nineteen-year-old German aviator Mathias Rust landed in Moscow’s Red Square today in 1987. Flying in from Helsinki, Finland with diplomatic intentions, he was detected several times by Soviet air defense systems but was never intercepted. As you can imagine, his landing set off a global media spectacle.
Speaking of the Soviets, writer Ian Fleming was born in 1908. He created James Bond. I love that he chose the character name because it was the most boring name he could think of.
Marco Rubio is 47 today if you want to send him a happy birthday, or a send him a present. My youngest sister won the worst birthday gift story in our family. Her father was known as something of a junk hunter, and for her 13th birthday, he gave her a six foot tall, 50-pound mirror he found in the dumpster behind J.C. Penney’s. She is a ways off from her next milestone birthday, but it just occurs to me we should probably start planning now to top that.
Eck, it’s also Rudi Giuliani’s birthday, if you believe he was indeed born and not the undead.
So for today, find someone you wish the universe would take back, and give them a shitty gift they can’t return. xoxo
(Also, I just realized one could surmise I am bundling my sister in with those who I wish the universe would absorb into black silence. This is very much not the case. Only the politicians).
Cartographer Sebastian Münster died today in 1552. Seriously, his maps are so beautiful.
Born on May 26th: Dorthea Lange, John Wayne, Peggy Lee, Miles Davis, Jack Kevorkian, Sally Ride, Helena Bonham Carter, and Lauryn Hill. Also born today author and cartoonist Raina Telgemeier. I almost didn’t write a post today, but I am so glad I did. Because I had no idea about her work, and it is awesome. She has made graphic novels of The Babysitters Club, my most favorite childhood book series. Aside from the blog What Claudia Wore, this is my favorite post-Ann M. Martin (that’s a recognized artistic period right?) Babysitters Club project.
Okay for the more scientifically inclined, it is also the 1907 birth date of Jean Bernard, the first to document a trial of radiotherapy on a patient with lymphoma. That’s not really him, but how funny would that be if it was? I have to bookmark that image search. For reals, if anyone is interested in the topic, and you should be because well many, many of us are going to get it, may I recommend The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee?
Today’s Fortune: It’s probably cancer.
It is National Tap Dance Day, in honor of the 1878 birth of dancer Bill Robinson. The Muppet’s puppeteer Frank Oz was born today in 1944. He voiced Fozzie Bear, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, Sam Eagle, Animal, and Miss Piggy. Also Yoda. Coincidentally, Star Wars was released today in 1977. Wrestling champion William Muldoon was born today in 1852. Both poets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Roethke were born on this date, in 1803, and 1908 respectively. And one of my most favorite writers Raymond Carver. Computer scientist and psychologist Catherine Wolfe was born today in 1947. Her story is pretty amazing. It reminded me of the Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Let’s see, Babe Ruth hit the last home run of his career today in 1935, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Oh, you don’t care about Babe Ruth? Yeah, neither do I.
John Scopes was indicted today in 1925 for teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution in a classroom in Tennessee, where he was working as a substitute teacher. I would like to think we have come a long way nearly a hundred years later, but sadly, not as far as one might have hoped.
The last Oprah Winfrey Show aired today in 2011. Aside from admiring her as an incredibly successful woman, I have never been too interested in the Oprah phenomenon. If anything, having an Oprah Book Club stamp on the cover of a book sometimes deterred me from reading it. Or at the very least, hiding the cover if I was reading on the metro or something. Isn’t that stupid, this fear of admitting that I am any part a marketer’s demographic, when I am, for the most part, exactly that? I am absolutely one of those people whose likes and dislikes could be picked by an algorithm to a horrifying degree. Or is it that most of us are, and that is what is scary?
I’m thinking there’s something so much more vulnerable about saying you like something than saying you don’t. It’s like we are all still on a playground, holding out something we think is special, only for it to inevitably be smashed to the ground by some jerk. In fact, it’s actually really difficult for me to say my likes and dislikes in person, because if you say you like something, I will most likely agree, because I don’t want to be the playground jerk. I mean if I start the conversation, I would be fine, but I almost never start the conversation, so there you go.
In the spirit of full transparency, here are things I like that I would be most embarrassed to tell you in person, with a few things that I do not. Okay, right off the bat, I read both Bridget Jones books probably every other year. I have read Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls at least 20 times. I like, and hate myself for liking, the Dave Matthews song “Crash into Me” Oh my god, you have no idea how hard that one is to cough up. In high school, I really liked Jewel. And I saw her in concert.
Also, I was a jerk in high school. I was the punching playground jerk. The problem is I am really good at making fun of people. Which I did, a lot. I justified it by assuming I only made fun of people who seemed higher up the social order than me, but for real I didn’t really think about most people not being cartoons until my twenties.
I love, but am also ashamed of loving, feeling superior (it’s a rare thing anyway, so not too much of an issue). I am almost always on a diet, but I would rather die than be seen eating diet foods, and I don’t like people who equate food with being bad and want to tell me about it. I don’t care that they think it. I just want them to keep it to themselves. Like anyone who has ever told me eating potato chips is bad for me or seen me drink a soda and told me I am ruining my teeth. My eyes seriously can’t roll back far enough. Also, my teeth are fine.
Also, I am super lazy. That one might not surprise people who know me, or maybe, I don’t know. I would always choose to nap as a pastime if there were not people in my life who force me to chose otherwise. Feeling angry at the several primary care doctors who have told me I can cure my depression with exercise can keep me awake at night.
My favorite movie is Desperately Seeking Susan Susan. I have watched it easily 50 times. Also Reality Bites, which is a terrible movie, but I don’t even hate-watch it, I just like watching it (yet I loathe Ethan Hawks). I hate pretension, yet am also pretentious. I have ordered clothes from Delhias. As an adult. I will absolutely read any celebrity magazine put in front of me. And I have followed Jennifer Aniston’s career with semi-interest because she really does have nice hair.
My freshman year in college, my roommate and I coordinated our class schedules to make sure we were home for Wednesday night 90210. Not in an ironic way, we just liked it. Okay, that’s enough confessions for today. Reading over the things that I am most embarrassed about makes me realize what I am hiding is just that I am drawn to, terrified of, sometimes feel shut out of mainstream culture. It’s all ego. My biggest fear is rejection, and I will happily make myself or anyone else the butt of a joke to make someone laugh and accept me.
You can unfollow me now if you want, I won’t judge you. Or I will, but I will keep it to myself, while angry eating potato chips. Rippled. Preferably very salty, with vinegar.
In honor of Queen of Victoria’s birthday, May 24, 1819, today’s post is solely dedicated to all of the ways in which living in Victorian England was deadly.
Death by steamboat
We will start with Canadian Victorians and then cross the ocean. First of all did you know there is a Thames river in Ontario? The steamer Victoria capsized in the Thames River today in 1881, the Queen’s 62nd birthday, killing almost 200 people.
If the bovine TB in unpasteurized milk didn’t make you ill, the fix to make it safer might. That fix was good old boric acid. Apparently Mrs. Beetons was Book of Household Management advised that treating milk with boric acid was a good way to purify it and rid the milk of any sour taste. Wise words if you know your goal is also to clear out your insides of those pesky organs.
If the milk didn’t scrub and liquify your insides, the bread should do the job. Flour was often cut with alum, a compound now most often found in detergents.
Modern Day equivalent: where to start? Popcorn lung? How about potassium bromate bread? The virtual non-difference between natural and synthetic additives?
Scheele Green wall paper The bright pigments of Victorian wallpaper were often, it turns out, quite poisonous, particularly this popular shade of emerald green, which was made with arsenic-laced paint. As you can imagine, arsenic vapors are toxic, and easily metabolized. Green wallpaper probably killed Napoleon. Also arsenic candles don’t sound great.
Death by Electric Tablecloth
All numbers of ill-advised electric products sold and used before electrocution was well understood.
Modern day equivalence: video game addiction?
Ok, let’s wrap this up. Fortune today: Overall, things look bright. But none of us are getting out of here alive. We are overdue for a superbug.
Born today: physician and astrologer Franz Mesmer. You know the word mesmerism? That’s his scientific contribution. He called it animal magnetism, kind of the 18th-century version of the force, which carried on into the 19th century when surgeon James Braid coined the term hypnosis.
Writer Margaret Fuller was born today. So was Swedish botanist and physician Carl Linnaeus. He devised a binomial naming system of all living things and is thus known as the father of modern taxonomy. Cyrill Demian received the patent for the accordion today in 1829, in Vienna. Bonnie & Clyde were shot and killed by police today in 1934. In 1533, the marriage of King Henry VIII to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, is officially absolved. His second wife Anne Boleyn would be beheaded almost three years to the day. Rosemary Clooney was born today in 1928.
Silverfish or firebrat: silverfish
Ice cream flavor: pistachio
Horoscope: Cosmopolitan I mean, it says it has everything you need to know about your week. I know it’s almost over, but better late than never? I am assuming you will need a case or two of this. And a bottle of this. And this? And a lot of this.
Are you depressed? quiz
Maybe you need some friends: wikihow Make Friends
I was trying to find a way for you to celebrate it, but frankly, this guy nailed it. If you must expand on that, you can make your own Book of Shadows. Because nothing says witchcraft more than WikiHow and a clipboard.
Recipe for Under-a-spell red devil cake Maybe you can substitute vanilla for white chocolate pudding?
Woah, hold up. It is also Morrissey’s birthday, who was born in 1959. Man, the to/do’s are piling up and it’s after 3pm.
I myself don’t care for The Smiths, so I have outsourced finding the saddest songs for you.
Born today in 1831, anatomist and surgeon Henry Vandyke Carter. He illustrated Gray’s Anatomy. Also born today painter Mary Cassatt; painter Belmiro de Almeida; musician Sun Ra; Harvey Milk; and Arthur Conan Doyle. I saw this earlier and was going to write a mystery for you, but things got big fast once I visited the National Days page.
Today’s lucky number: 5
Color: Pantone 292
Coffee or tea: Coffee. Black. And cigarettes.
Ella Fitzgerald – Black Coffee
The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse (1902)
I looked inside my scrying mirror and I am seeing the letter E. What significance might the letter e have on your day?
a. ETOH and large and poorly considered eBay purchase?
b. an unexpected trip with help from your EZ pass and Hyundai Elantra?
c. An egg-based dinner tainted with E. coli?
Not sure. Stick to coffee and cigs just in case.
P.S. I love Wikipedia’s “modern-day scrying” example. It really brightened my day.
Remember when the world was going to end on May 21, 2011, and we could all max out our credit cards on jeans, and tell everyone you hate that you hate them to their face? Oh, and um, repent for your misdoings? Let’s all do more of that today, and not worry about tomorrow.
Today is the birthday of Alexander Pope, Henri Rousseau, Fats Waller, Robert Creeley, and the Notorious B.I.G. Also modernist architect Marcel Breuer. You know all those concrete buildings that look like Eggo waffles? You can thank him for those. Computer scientist Sandy Douglas was born today in 1921. He programmed the one of the digital graphical video game OXO. Even better, he programmed it on this monstrosity:
The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator in 1948
Today is also the birthdate of French engineer Gaspard-Gustave-Gustave de Coriolis. He was the first to describe the transfer of energy by force “work.” 7th-grade physics coming back to you? He published an 1829 textbook called Calcul d’effet des Machines. His work is also noted for his descriptions of what has come to be known as the Coriolis effect. You know how the earth keeps spinning and spinning and you stay on it speeding towards death no matter how much you wish it not true? It’s kind of about that.
Clara Barton established the American Red Cross today in 1881. Who remembers what I taught you about saving lives on Saturday.
Coke or Pepsi: Coke
Tabloid of choice: O.K.
Homework: sentence diagrams
Today you might get hit with a ______________.
a. raindrop b. finance charge c. brick
Most likely c (today is about work)
Today you will also attempt to start reading a great work of literature, but give up because it is too confusing and difficult.
Today is Josephine Baker Day
Full disclosure, I just returned from a five-year-old’s birthday party at a Pump it Up with a nonfunctioning air conditioner, so I am not at the top of my game. The birthday girl got so overheated, she barfed and things only went up from there. Perhaps she worked through yesterday’s to do list?
Eugene Polley, American engineer, inventor of the remote control died today in 2012. Do you guys remember the MTV game show Remote Control? A quick internet search tells me that you do. Check out the sweet prizes people won!
Honoré de Balzac, Cher, and Busta Rhymes share a birthday today. Also actor James Stewart, comic book writer Gardner Fox, comedian Gilda Radner, and inventor Emile Berliner. He invented the gramophone record.
Shakespeare’s sonnets were first published in 1609.
Lucky number: 64
Soup or salad: bread bowl
Winner of the above Remote Control episode: Danny
TV trivia: misfortune falls on which Brady family member first when they find the ancient tiki?
Homework: write a sonnet using Cockney rhyming slang and I will mail you a prize.
Day of the Beefcake
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, May 19th is the best day to plant above ground crops, graft or pollinate, or to begin a diet to gain weight. So, I might have jumped the gun on last weekend’s carbo-loading. Oh well, grab and plate and start over. I have confirmed by several sources that May 19th is National Devil’s Food Cake Day, so batter up! We can’t all be Lou Ferrigno.
We are on the fourth day of a waxing moon. Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, was beheaded in 1536. If I remember my American Red Cross training correctly, when you arrive at the scene of an accident, the following are signs not bother with CPR or stop if you have started: rigor mortis, lividity, impalement, decomposition, incineration, and decapitation.
There have, however, been 38 medically documented incidents of Lazarus Syndrome since 1982, where people declared dead have just randomly started breathing again, sometimes in the morgue.
Today’s lucky number: 78
Today’s pet horoscope: go here
Seconds of consciousness after decapitation: debatable
Alcoholics Anonymous affirmation: just for today (I know it’s the same as yesterday’s but perhaps you are not understanding the meaning of this affirmation).
Today’s literary conflict: man vs. self
Anybody want a peanut?
Also, World Whiskey Day is celebrated on the third Saturday of May, so between the cake and the drinking, you’ve got a lot of work to do. EMTs will not try to rescue you tomorrow when they find you with rigor mortis.
In 2005, we learned that Pluto has two more moons, named Nix and Hydra, when the Hubble Space Telescope confirmed this with a second photo, making a total of five moons. Pluto is, of course, god of the underworld. Nyx is the goddess of night, and the mother of the ferryman of Hades, Charon (incidentally another moon of Pluto). Hydra is the nine-headed water serpent from Greek mythology that lived in the Lake of Lerna, entrance to the underworld. Hercules killed it because we can’t have anything nice.
Chemist and mineralogist John Children was born in 1777. He invented a way to extract silver from ore without using mercury. If you would like to estimate your risk of mercury poisoning, go here. Writer, historian, and humanitarian Bertrand Russell was born in 1872.
Filmmaker Frank Capra was born in 1897. Pathologist Michael A. Epstein was born in 1921. He co-discovered the Epstein virus, also known as HH-4 or herpes 4 virus, which can cause mono. Most people are exposed to it and become immune, but in certain individuals, it can wreak all kinds of havoc.
Today your time is slipping through a siphon or a sieve: a sieve
Lucky number: 58
Odds of dying in a bathtub: 685, 000 to 1
Odds of dying climbing Mt Everest: 1 to 6
Alcoholics Anonymous affirmation: just for today
Percent you could be saving on car insurance: 15
Collaborative fortune based on above: I don’t know, whatever you think
For the weekend: ham on rye?
The New York Stock Exchange was established today in 1792 under the signing of the Buttonwood Agreement. Whenever I picture the stock exchange as an actual object, I picture that giant wheel on The Price is Right. I mean that’s pretty much how all that Wall Street stuff works right? This probably explains my financial acumen. Alexander Hamilton would be so proud.
Speaking of wheels of fortune, the Antikythera mechanism was discovered today in 1902 by archaeologist Valerios Stais. Described as an ancient analog computer believed to have been assembled between 100 to 200 B.C. with the purpose of predicting astrology and eclipses. Its complex mechanics point to a knowledge of technology that was not seen again until the 14th century.
This reminded me of the wonderful podcast S -Town. Did you listen to this last summer too? It’s a seven-episode podcast, mainly interviewing a very eccentric horologist in Woodstock, Alabama. It starts out having you think it’s about certain things but veers into very unexpected places. The clockmaker is very interested in collecting sundial mottos, small quotes that are placed by the maker to express some sentiment, but as he explains, they are usually kind of dark. Sort of a yin and yang thing, reminding us of our mortality in the glare of the bright sun. There are several beautiful ones that he reads, but his favorite is “tedious and brief.” I will leave it at that in case you haven’t heard it and want to check it out.
I heard it in August, shortly before the solar eclipse, and a milestone birthday, and right before our house was sold unexpectedly, enabling us to move to a completely different part of the country. It was kind of a surreal time, and this story got very wound up in those memories.
Belgian theologian Martín Delrio was born today in 1551. He wrote and published a six-volume set titled Investigations into Magic, mainly concerning witchcraft, superstition, and, you know, Magic. It looks like it has been translated into English so … summer beach read?
Also born today mathematician Charlotte Barnum in 1860; inventor Frederick McKinley Jones, who you can thank for a number of innovations especially in long-haul refrigeration, was born in 1893; and physicist Julius Sumner Miller in 1909. He was teaching kids science on tv long before Bill Nye the Science guy (though I am grateful for his contributions too).
Blacksmith and manufacturer John Deere died in 1886. Prince Boris Borisovich Golitsyn died in 1916. He invented the first seismograph, a very impressive instrument that will no doubt be regarded with the awe of the Antikythera mechanism inspired back in 1902 “A civilization smart enough to create this, and yet they were so, so dumb.”
My mother’s side of the family is all Italian Roman Catholic, so I have a soft spot for superstitions. Mainly I glom onto the bad luck omens. Unfortunately, the number 17 is bad luck in Italian lore. Something about it looking like a man hanging in the gallows, and in Roman numerals, the anagram spells something about tempting death. Those fun-loving Italians. Thirteen is actually a lucky number, though obviously never sit down to a table of twelve thereby making it thirteen, because well that should be a given.
Other favorite superstitions of mine include an unhung hat; crossed cutlery on a dinner plate; boiled over milk, shoes left facing in opposite directions; and broken picture frames. Don’t ever hold a mirror up to a mirror unless you want to invite the evil eye. No birds in a home, ever. Though curiously if one poops on you outside, that is good luck. Let’s be reasonable here and assume that one was made up on the spot by some sad sack with bird shit on his shoulder. Well played, bird shit man, well played. Because our great, great, great grandmothers heard you, and your feeble lie traveled an ocean and continues to this day.
Like I said, I collect them, so if you have any good ones, let me know in the comments. And yes, I absolutely throw spilled salt over my left shoulder. Not to chase the devil away, but just in case he needs any seasoning for his dinner or wants to make me potato chips or something. At my age, I am happy for the company.
Dr. John Bulwer was born in 1606. One of his published works is titled Chirologia, and it is about the language of gesture (not to be confused with sign language).
Mathematician, philosopher, and humanitarian Maria Gaetana Agnesi was born in 1718. As one of 21 children (!), she was a child prodigy who spoke seven languages by the time she was 11. She is the first woman on record to have written a mathematics book, and I have to imagine one of the first woman, if not the very first, to have been renowned in her time for her mathematic abilities. She was the first woman appointed as a mathematics professor at the University of Bologna, though she was unable to serve. There is a curve in mathematics that is named for her, I can’t tell if it’s all together good natured or not. After reading the reasoning, I am on the fence. You can decide for yourself. Also she has a crater on Venus named for her, as well as an asteroid, and a Francis Ford Coppola brandy, so vindicated?
The Witch of Agnesi with labeled points
Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was born in 1718. She founded the first English language kindergarten in the U.S. She had quite an influence of the education of likely hundreds of thousands of westerns. No, I am not talking about all-I-ever-needed-to-know-I-learned-in-kindergarten dogma. I don’t know about you, but I attended Catholic school, and my kindergarten memories all involve being nauseous, terrified, and ignored. Let’s face it, children are jerks. Anyway, Peabody translated the first Buddhist text in English in 1844.
French writer Charles Perrault died today in 1703. He wrote a number of fairytales including Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Ridinghood. Comedian Andy Kaufman died in 1984. Actress Margaret Hamilton, better know to you as the Wicked Witch of the West, died in 1985.
On this day
Marie Antoinette married Louis-Auguste today in 1770. They were 14 and 15 years old respectively. Louis inherited the throne and became King Louis XVI four years later.
In 1866, Congress established the 5c nickel, enabling industries such as the nickelodeon theaters, five & dime stores, and automats. Before this a nickel was actually a 3 cent coin. There’s a long reasoning for it that has to do with the Civil War. Too long to go into here, but, you know if you’re curious.
The final thing I will note about the 16th of May is that in 1888, Nikola Tesla presented a lecture about alternating currents to transmit electricity long distance, and exactly three years later the International Electrotechnical Exhibition opened, featuring the world’s first transmission long distance three phase electric current.
May 16th seems a bit of mixed energies, both mythical and technical. What could its icon be?Maybe a Minotaur crossed with a robot? Incidentally, Wednesday is named in honor of two very different divinities, the Germanic god Woden, and the Roman god Mercury.
Actually, I am suddenly reminded of one of my daughter’s many cartoon characters. This year she grown very adept at drawing amalgams of different superhero/monster/robots. I have one in mind that can be our icon of May 16th. I am almost positive she won’t mind me sharing.
His name is Meatbelt. He is our new icon on May 16th. See how he has all of his meat snacks wrapped around his chest? His motto is always be prepared. I suggest you do the same, and you will be able to deflect anything this incongruous day might throw at you. Or at least catch and store on your meatbelt.
In 1796, in the War of the First Coalition, Napoleon triumphantly entered the city of Milan. In 1851 the first Australian gold rush was officially proclaimed. In 1905, 110 acres in Nevada next to the Union Pacific Railroad was auctioned off, and, alas, Las Vegas was born.
Did you know that Las Vegas shares a birthday with McDonald’s and Mickey Mouse? Mickey Mouse made his debut in 1928 in the animated short Plane Crazy. And on May 15, 1940, McDonald’s opened the doors of its very first restaurant in San Bernardino, California. What an unholy trio of…earnest aims gone awry?
Queen of France Margaret of Valois was born in 1553; astronomer and Hungarian priest Maximilian Hell in 1720 (isn’t every word of that bio perfect?). The moon crater Hell is named in his honor. He also believed in the healing power of magnets.
Writer Lyman Frank Baum was born in 1856. He wrote The Wizard of Oz. Swiss mountaineer Matthias Zurbriggen was also born on this day in 1856. He had kind of a tragic life. He spent most of his life climbing, both alone and as a guide, through the Alps, the Himalayas, and through mountains in South America, and New Zealand. But he spent the last years of his life as a vagrant in Switzerland and died by suicide at the age of 61.
Author of The Master and the Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov was born in 1891. That novel, much like Catch 22 and anything by William Faulkner, is one of a collection of books that I have started and stopped many times with the idea that if I could just pursue a little further, I will like them. But still, they stand unfinished on my bookshelves, small monuments to both my hubris and laziness. Ah well.
Emily Dickinson died today in 1886. Painter Edward Hopper in 1967. Singer June Carter Cash died in 2003.
May 15th seems kind of dark, no? Maybe it’s the miasma of French fry grease, Napoleon, Las Vegas, with a dash of Disney. Maybe because of the loss of both a poet and a painter who were masterful at capturing loneliness. And then our poor mountaineer. His story reminds me a little bit of the bizarre story about the “compulsive wanderer” on The Futility Closet podcast a few months back. So much struggle to make our way in the world, so much searching in search of nothing.
Which then reminds me of another podcast. If you have twenty minutes, The Slowest Distance Between Two Points is worth a listen. I’ll be over here, stuck on chapter one, page one of The Sound and the Fury.
One of the earliest experimenters in photography Thomas Wedgwood was born in 1771. Illustrator Henri Julian was born in 1852; pianist Lance Dosser in 1916; silent film actress Billie Dove in 1921; and lithographer Robert Bechtle in 1932.
Robert Bechtle, ’61 Pontiac, 1968–69. Oil on canvas, 59 3/4 × 84 1/4 in. (151.8 × 214 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; © 1969 Robert Bechtle
Musician B.B. King died on May 13, 2015. So did poet Franz Wright and astrophysicist Stanton Peale. Poet Stanley Kunitz died in 2005; singer Frank Sinatra in 1998; actress Billie Burke, who played Glinda the Good Witch of the North, in 1970; singer Lucrezia Bori in 1960; and painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi died in 1953.Lucrezia Bori, 1921. Unknown photographer
Yasuo Kuniyoshi from the Archives of American Art
Today is the Catholic feast day of Saint Matthias, who was chosen as the apostle to replace Judas after his betrayal of Jesus and subsequent death.
In 1509, the French army defeated the Republic of Venice in the Battle of Agnadello. Wars have never interested me that much, but I like the quote from Machiavelli’s The Prince that is sited on the reference page: “Venice lost in one day gains of eight hundred years.”
In 1796, Edward Jenner gave the first vaccination for smallpox. In 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition began, travel long up the Missouri River. Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway was published May 12, 1925. Israel was declared an independent state in 1948. The United States launched their first space station Skylab in 1973.
Speaking of betrayal, and outer space, and stream of consciousness novels, I was listening to the Stuff to Blow Your Mind podcast about the Boltzmann Brain paradox. It is a thought experiment that posits it might be mathematically more likely that you are a brain floating in a vat in space than a person living on earth. And if you aren’t that, you might have to get comfortable with the idea that you aren’t the only you. Kind of freeing isn’t it? Losing Venice in a day surely doesn’t matter now, even if did mean losing nearly a millennium of work in the lifespan of a mayfly.
Hopefully, it makes all the shit that you was going to keep you from falling asleep tonight less of a big deal. If you are still worried, here is a link to an excellent poem by Franz Wright titled “To Myself” that will take your mind off it.
The Pajama Game opened on Broadway today in 1953. I am not entirely clear of the plot with my exhaustive 60 second scan, but something about a pajama factory and demands of a seven and a half cent raise. Sounds topical. There are unions involved, so I can say with 100% certainty my father would not like it. Communists.
(I can’t believe I have worked in two quotes from the movie Clue in four blog posts. Prodigious).
In 1958, Ben Carlin became the one and only person to travel around the globe in an amphibious vehicle. It took him ten years, 11,000 miles at sea and 39,000 miles by land.