Scope & Horror

Existential Dread

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:


The Artists

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 SupperApparently, 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.

For tonight: 

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.



In Search of Lost Time

Existential Dread
ticker (2).jpg

Ticker tape parade for Howard Hughes setting new aviation record for flying around the world in just under 4 days, Life Magazine, 1938.

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.


Calcul d’effet des Machines

Existential Dread

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’s fortune:

Sentence diagram source and author

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.


Remote Control

Existential Dread

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?

MTV Remote Control, season 3, Danny Bonaduce vs. Butch Patrick vs. Brandon Cruz. My money is on Danny.

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!

A pencil portrait of Gardner Fox by Gil Kane

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.

The first modern atlas Theatrum Orbis Terrarum was issued today in 1570. The first public display of Thomas Edison‘s prototype kinetoscope was displayed for the public today in 1891.

Shakespeare’s sonnets were first published in 1609.

Illustration from Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

May 20th is Eliza Doolittle Day To celebrate you can work on your elocution. Or watch Pygmalion. Or both.

Lucky number: 64

Soup or salad: bread bowl

Winner of the above Remote Control episode: Danny

List of English lucky charms and talismans

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.

Brady trivia answer: Greg

Trading Under the Buttonwood Tree

Existential Dread, Pseudoscience


A depiction of traders under the buttonwood tree, 1945

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.

Born today

Cover page of Investigations into Magic via

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.”

In summary

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.

Venice, Lost in One Day

Existential Dread

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.

Lance Dossor (far right), February 1937

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

“Ah, fors’è lui” … “Sempre libera”

From Giuseppe Verdi‘s La traviata, sung by Lucrezia Bori in 1910 for Edison Records.


Yasuo Kuniyoshi from the Archives of American Art

Kuniyoshi. Dream (1922), Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo


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.”[1]

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.

1. Machiavelli, The Prince, transl. Rufus Goodwin, (Dante University Press, 2003), 77.