Saturday, January 9, 2016

The "new" learning of the elderly

The pleasure of finally learning things that might have been learned more than a half century ago 
Eastern Hercules Beetle.  About two inches long.  Photo, Atlanta GA, courtesy dp.

The Stag Beetle, Bill Welch says (Naturally blog, for 21 January, 2015, 3rd and 4th images) is one of the largest in England, but Denise's Eastern Hercules, truly nearly the width of her palm, is bigger.  Yet they look related.  The Stag, Wiki says, is limited to SE England, and the Hercules to the SE of the USA.  Both of them, new to me (and my ignorance of beetles is almost perfect) delighted me.  The largest flying cockroaches here are about as large, but they lack great structure and the ease of handling (they are really ugly!) of these rare beetles and of scaraboids in general.

I greatly enjoy reading E. F. Benson (Mapp and Lucia), but besides his wonderful general intelligence, his writing is enlivened by the kind of general interest and knowledge of all sorts that, generally, only leisure can enable, ideally (as in his case) by the kind of adolescent education that the best schools provided (he was born in 1867 and at the usual age was sent to Marlborough College, the model for that in his novel David Blaize, which is purely and devotedly Late Victorian), and as wonderful a source as can be imagined for college cricket and for all the other interests and activities of that life, not least carefully noted nature walks.  I cannot express my debt to Bill Welch's blog, Naturally, for its devotion (amateur in the truest and best sense) to the insects and plants in particular and his photographs.  I  have learned that the most serious shortcoming of my almost George Gissing-like adolescence, which helped form me and gave me strength and some kinds of discrimination,, is exactly the converse of what E. F. Benson's provided (and then some).  Likewise, my young friend Denise is a far better observer than I am.  Indeed, if it weren't for its probable limited expectancy, being old is so good that I'd love to be old forever.  For the moment, may I just recommend to everyone reading E. F. Benson.  Also, the Naturally blog.  It is unlimitedly worthwhile.  As an example, the Link that I gave was to the use of Comtois horses, which look almost like the oldest French cave drawings of Palaeolithic horses.  Be that as it may, this blog post on coppicing led me to look up Comtois horses in another treasure of the present decades, Wikipedia, by means of which I spent a whole afternoon studying the training of these strong and calm, beautifully stocky and short (only 14 or 15 hands) working horses and the man who trains them.  Well, I can't do that with the Hercules Beetle, though I learned that Denise had handled and watched it for quite a while before releasing it.  Yet I wouldn't have got her to show me the photo that she took if I had not learned of stag beetles from Bill Welch's post and, reading E F Benson, been instantly interested in the boy, David,  in the early chapters of Benson's novel, when David was still a school boy.  By the way, never mind what journalistic reviews say about this novel.  And don't smirk at the idealism of its last chapter, either.  (I am still searching for my photo of a bright green emerging cicada which, to my delight, chanced on my rear screen door, attached itself, and was still emerging when I came out in the morning; its wings were as lovely as any dragon fly's).  Just read both the blog and E. F. Benson.

Anyway, in the middle of one of those cricket games in David Blaize (if anyone can tell me where to read up on the rules and scoring of cricket I shall be most grateful), twice in one page, and only that once, I came across a surprising word, google.  This, in fact, may be its first appearance, a vernacular word, such as players themselves come up with (cf. dribble in basketball, about the same age and of the same kind, alluding to a particular kind of movement of a ball or puck--any relation at all in vernacular usage to puckishness or mischievousness?).  Actually, the US OED that comes on my iMac says
  1. googly |ˈgo͞oglē|

  • noun ( pl. googlies ) Cricket
    a ball bowled with a deceptive bounce.
    ORIGIN early 20th cent.: of unknown origin. 
And the dolls whose eyes' irises go off to the side, to look askance,  of course, were called googly-eyed.  You see them commonly on Antiques Roadshow.  They, too, dated from the turn of the last century and the eyes were made to go off to the side.  The 10th edition of the Webster's Collegiate no longer has the word, though it was listed simply (as in the OED) in the 1956 edition of the Collegiate from my undergraduate days.  It was the two-volume 'Shorter' OED that first put me onto this line of thought.

And what does that prove?  Nothing at all.  Dribble, goggle, google, wobble, and the like, I think, are words that can happen more than once, and Google's own account of its name, from a child's coming up with googul for the prodigious quantity requiring place-markers all the way across a page, need not be related except that these are just the kind of words that are unknown in origin precisely because they are not pedantic but, on the contrary, part of the essential remnants of baby talk.  Yet the sense of going awry runs through all our pre-Google usages, and it is also far earlier (cited as in print in 1904).  It matters, however, only as it mattered to Partridge.  Words just do matter.

As so often, it was in Eric Partridge that I found a citation ; he was interested in such things:
Origins: A Short Dictionary of Modern English, Macmillan, 2nd edition, 1959, s.v. jig, 7.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

New Readings of Old Books-2

When Wood showed me how to get over the levee to the River
By the time we clambered down the moist bank of the levee, the sun had just set over Port Allen in the west; it was late Spring, and the river was half flooded around the swamp willows.  This was taken (early 1980s) where one could drive to the top of the levee where also some of the agriculture school cattle were grazing, on the dry side, about half a mile south of the LSU campus.  Of course, it is film, not digital, Kodachrome probably.

I want to write about a Memoirs, Present Indicative, of Noel Coward, that I first read when I was about to graduate from high school or during the three semesters that I was at the California College of Arts and Crafts.  In either case I was living in Berkeley (so was the family) but did not yet have access to the University library.  I recall finding it at the Egyptianizing Berkeley Public Library on Shattuck Avenue and checking it out there.  It really made an impression!  It was a time when I was reading biographies and memoirs of opera singers, Emma Calvé, Maria Jeritza, Lotte Lehmann, Geraldine Farrar (my goodness: princes and tennis stars, cf. Anna Netrebko), Chaliapin, Caruso, Alma Gluck: probably her first, because her daughter, Marcia Davenport, had written the novel that really astonished my adolescent imagination, The Valley of Decision, and then Of Lena Geyer, so that it was no wonder that opera stars were exciting—and wasn't it just as well that I could imagine Manon, for example, delicate, petite?  I also haunted the used-book stores for 78 rpm records.  It was a lovely couple of years.  At the rooming house, at 2622 College, which qualified as Approved Housing, since I was under age, in the evening we sat around a large round kitchen table and filled sketchbooks and talked, and talked.  Neither before or later (until perhaps now) did I have free time for such preoccupations.  By the time I turned 21, in 1955, I was beginning graduate course work.

So what about that Sunset over the Willow Swamp on the Mississippi?  Well, the photos of famous people are under copyright, and by now those years in the early 1950s and now even the early 1980s have become sentimental in their own right, and I have made a habit of using pictures as headers.  I might break my neck if I went down the slithery mud today, to take new ones, and my coaevals are dying and my former students are at the height of their careers, very busy, so I treasure these pictures.  Besides, they are part of me, and you may make of them what you wish.

(Have to re-write body of this post: please excuse):
Having lost the tangled thread for this post, I'll just note the kind of thing I had in mind.  Noel Coward had reminded me of the craze for African American night-club music (and it was picked up, too, in Downton Abbey, Season 5).  But I also had noticed in novel after novel the protagonists having been described as appreciating a Grammaphone Society recording of the Bach Concerto for two violins, which reminded me how much shorter the pre-WW II catalogues had been, and how important the really outstanding 78rpm sets had been.  Then there was that Blackbird business: a comment on a YouTube offering of a 1927 song, "Bye, bye Blackbird", and some young person was astonishingly puzzled by the lyrics of the song.  Nor did I at the time know about the all African-American musical show Blackbirds, which predated the song by a year or so.  The song's 'blackbird' was inspired by Florence Mills, who enchanted London and, I think, Paris as well, until her early death in 1927.  She was adorable, as her portrait photos show (and perhaps the inspiration for the figure of Betty Boop?), but she never recorded the song in question though we do have a recording of one with a similar reference.  Like Noel Coward, Paul McCartney. who sang the 1927 "Bye bye" song so lovingly in the "Kisses on the Bottom " concert at the Capitol Records studio a few years ago, surely knew whose song it was, and Bessie Smith actually recorded it when it was new.  However, and this is the kind of realization (better late than never), I have a two-CD album  of Josephine Baker in her youth that includes two of the songs from Blackbirds.  But these were European recordings and were not noticed, apparently, by the person who compiled the list in the Wikipedia.  But Josephine Baker's knowledge of Mills, who died so young, and her covering Mills's songs for performance in France, adds one more detail to the history of the effect (with the Prince of Wales, Edward, attending Mills's concerts repeatedly) of the most enchanting African-American  performers  in Europe  at the time.  It was my retirement-age pleasure reading that took me to the abundant material in Wikipedia on the musical  Blackbirds and Florence Mills.  You'll find lots of material, both documentary and pictorial, on Florence Mills—all except her voice.  Josephine Baker was only five years younger, but happily lived till 1975.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

New Reading of old Books

Detail of a poor photo of a rabbit (Jill's), but all I could think of as a heading was a rabbit, and Durer's is too wild, too fine, and too alert to illustrate Dorothy Sayers' characterization of an unhappy drunken college girl: "The general impression of an Angora rabbit that has gone loose and was astonished at the result"—but what I need is the face, and of an Angora, and I can recall but cannot find the image of my sister Linda's big old rabbit.

In any case, that characterization is from Gaudy Night, and I hadn't meant to risk being disappointed after fifty years by that one.  Actually, I was wondering whether I would still admire her Dante commentaries as much as I had when the three Penguin volumes were new, but the font is too small till I get new reading glasses.  And, in the first place, looking across the room at my big oaken chair with the mask of a goat pan on its back, I was thinking of a student couple in Eugene, Oregon, c. 1970, who had found a chair just like mine but with a lion mask (indeed mine is the only one with an aegipan mask).  I think it was to Roger that I lent the paperback of Busman's Honeymoon, as fun to read, and he found it "castrating".  That rather spoiled the fun, though later I realized that one needed to know that the personality of Peter Wimsey had evolved so that, though he might not have liked the book, Roger might have chosen a different epithet.  Besides, between the two wars, and especially after the trenches, working with what we call PTSD, and after the worst experiences of World War II we called Shell Shock, as I recall, was de rigueur for writers who took themselves seriously.  After Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf, et al., who called Dorothy Sayers a feminist?  And girls raised in Oxford were generally well educated even before the women's colleges.  There's a whole literature on them.
Anyway, I found out that Busman's Honeymoon had been a highly successful play before she turned it into a novel a year later.  That accounts perhaps for its wonderful conversations, perhaps more numerous than even in her other detective stories.  But only those readers who just don't like Sayers (even as I just don't like P. D. James, though it seems to me normal to have one's favorites, and James has her own admirers), and I enjoyed Busman's Honeymoon more than ever.  So much, in fact, that I re-read Gaudy Night, too.  It had been the first of her books that I'd read, and I enjoyed it even more for getting all of the references (I think, all of them).  This time, between the two of them, I have decided finally to read Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.  Kindle obliged handsomely, but they don't have those three volumes of Dorothy Sayers' commentary on Dante in eBook format.  Famous poetic versions abound, and those everlasting Doré illustrations, but not commentaries.  I suspect that we are supposed to treasure the Commedia,  but not to study it, not to get from it what Dante put in.  Not even if one wants an Italian commentary.  I pulled down the Penguins, but the font that seemed so reasonable until recently now might as well be 6-point.
Surely I am not the only reader-for-pleasure to pluck choices from chapter headings in the books I'm reading currently.  There's always plenty more.  It is not the sort of reading you'd get course credit for in college, but it was there that I formed the habit.  You study for one final exam then steal time to read something that appeals to you before facing preparing for the next exam.  During final exams you don't have to dress or go out to do anything...  I protest, I didn't read detective fiction during exam weeks; in those early days I'd read travels or journals or sometimes the novels by authors that I couldn't afford to take whole courses on (or, to confess it, that I hated to answer the predictable essay questions on, spoiling the book for me!).  
I think I'll write a couple more posts about reading things I've always meant to read or that I haven't read again since I was fifty years younger.
Here is that chair again that I got in the 1960s.  It really is white oak, but the black is a product called japalac, which is original.  Roger and Judy (I think I have their names right) "cleaned" their lion-head one, stripping it right down to the bare wood.  That was the fashion at the time, alas.  The chair is American Renaissance Revival, c. 1885, I think.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Old Buster Copes with the Weather

October 27, it rained so hard that the whole porch was wet.
So long as it is still not cold, Buster wants to stay outdoors till sunset (and we still have a couple of days left before we change the clocks).  I think he actually enjoys the outdoors, but staying dry is a problem when a very large Pacific hurricane crosses the mountains of Mexico in incessant sheets of rain and floods whatever it can (not that it's as bad as having a hurricane of our own).  The front porch is the best place, but Buster will not nap on wet wood, either.  He kept complaining to me as if I could make it stop.  I did go outdoors onto the grass to encourage him: he did follow me out and dutifully peed.
Then I caught sight of the second-rate telephone book that they deliver.  No harm trying.  I opened it wide, right in the center, and Buster perceiving dry paper lay down on it and slept all day.  Well, there's a good fifty pages of advertisements for accident-insurance lawyers there, so maybe he smelt all the printer's ink.

October 28, it was almost quite dry, and he ventured a sunbath.
Next day the sun shone dry enough that the concrete parking pad in back let him find the sort of place that he likes (which I'd have felt was still too damp) and there. about 1:00 p.m.. I saw him happily fast asleep.
Fact is, it is important to him to mind his territory.  But he's big enough that the younger cats do, so far, respect him.  He's 15 years old.
I'll try to get something more serious in a day or so.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

And the Panaghia in the Chartres crypt?

Begging comparison with the Theotokos in the Haghia Sophia apse, posted at head of last post?
Chartres.  Crypt (i.e., pre-Early Gothic preserved, but the painting is dated end 12c to beg. 13c).  The Virgin in Majesty, i.e., what the Greeks would call Panaghia.  In my humble (meant seriously) opinion, the 'visit' of the West to Constantinople in 1204 accounts for not a little in Gothic figural arts.  So much, and not least in the Ile de France, was of Byzantine origin.  I don't know whether Henry Adams and his traveling group saw the painted image in the crypt where it would have been at the altar end of the crypt which served as the principal sanctuary of Notre Dame: I don't know whether it was covered.  Even in its present condition, though, one can see its dark blues and the gold of the haloes, and the drawing is strong and elegant.
Between Abbot Suger's chevet and completion of the West Rose only a little later than the figures of the Royal Portal, (and some time before the recorded installation of the South Porch in 1206), that is, after the fire of 1194 and while the main nave as designed in 1197 was still incomplete, this painted image of the Virgin may have been the main one just at the time when the crusaders ran amok in Constantinople in 1203-4.
I did read Mont St-Michel and Chartres .  It could not be more different from The Education..., and I still don't like it very much, though I keenly appreciate  (and even envy) the depth in which he devoted himself to every aspect of the territory that his group (Lodges and others) had covered, though from what I know of pre-WWI touring cars it can't have been wholly comfortable on the roads (a present-day Fiat 500, or Citroen, would be more so).  It is a guide book one might say for travelers with ample time and access to the best books.   Why did Cram like it so much?  It was not just a Baedeker, and it explored its quarter of France in unprececented depth—in a way that devout books never meant to do, and it was literature.
But whereas The Education is timeless and unique in its personal depth, Mont St-Michel is dated. Besides, by his own account, from boyhood and all his life, Henry Adams had an antipathy towards academic research, particularly what is for us century-old German scholarship.  One need not share that antipathy, though, to sympathize with his need to do so (since he had the leisure and means for it) and to write the kind of study that he really wanted to.  The worst one can call this is elitist: that to appreciate and understand Mont St-Michel  one needs more general education and leisure for thought than one can hope to get from this book itself, though the experience of sharing with Adams is worth more than any textbook.  Still, in my opinion, Erwin Panofsky's essay, "Three Decades of Art History in the United States," the Epilog in Panofsky's Meaning in the Visual Arts, casts even more light than he intended, and he is generous to his American predecessors, in particular impressed by their regarding all Europe as one.  Henry Adams, however, was (quite understandably and pardonably) a learned amateur, and, he'd be quick to claim, an amateur in the best sense.  Young students of my generation were unfamiliar with Adams's kind.  At the same time, they seem to be less in touch with what the combination of the Paperback Revolution (much of it, like LP music recordings of the same period) made available to us a quarter to a half century ago, and that because (speaking of California in the West more than of many places between the Rockies and the Mississippi) as many as  half of our professors had been born and educated in Europe.  The ready availability of specialized studies, in new translations, made the history of art and architecture a full-fledged discipline in America (as also in England, where it had been rather regional).  Today there are many new books, as well as video works, that are more abundantly illustrated but very, very seldom go beyond the interests of the educated layman (but a layman, though more varied, also less fully educated than a century ago and providing a larger audience).  The more general works are certainly less elite (today we are horrified that only potential students whose families can afford well known universities may be able to contemplate that sort of education).  There are no longer. as in the wake of World War II, works that can be published simply for the cost of publication.  Obviously, electronic publication is taking their place, but I doubt if there are enough teaching scholars to form an adequate bridge of mentors (so to speak).  I don't know.  And I am not up to date in medieval studies; my classical background gives me ready access to them, via Greek and Roman studies, but I am not placed (in the deep South of the USA) to know whether most of the young assistant professors are prepared to form the educational bridges aforementioned.
So, I'll mention besides Erwin Panofsky only a couple of famous studies that impressed me most (and which I'm sure still are as good as ever):
—Adolf Katzenellenbogn, The Sculptural Programs of Chartres Cathedral.  Norton, 1959.
 —ed. and with a preface by Robert Branner, Chartres Cathedral (Norton Critical Studies in Art History), 1969.  This contains articles by most of the authors, I confess, that I most esteem but also takes pains to represent different approaches, including on the stained glass Maurice Denis and Henry Adams himself.  Branner plainly says that he feels that an American author ought to be included and, since there are other topics where Adams might be more questionable, gives him the windows that he loved so much.  The Branner book, also, like most of the later books (with offset printing) is very adequately illustrated.  I'm sure, of course, that it no longer costs $2.95.
—Also as good as ever, Emile Mâle, The Gothic Image (transl. Dora Nussey).  Harper, 1958.
The authors included in Branner's volume really do provide a wonderful survey of Chartres studies.
Perhaps it is just to consider Mont St-Michel as the work that inspired Cram's generation as the post-WWII works inspired mine.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


On "The Education of Henry Adams", one of the most delightful books ever written

The Panaghia in the principal, large eastern apse of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; dated in the 9th century, she was uncovered when Justinian's church (532-565) was no longer a mosque, and substantial numbers of the mosaics were again revealed.

Publicly released in 1913 at the behest of Ralph Cram (AIA), and thenceforward a popular triumph, Henry Adams said that Mont St. Michel and Chartres  had been written for the diversion of his nieces "and nieces-in-wish"; at any rate, it was intentionally easy reading.  I managed not to read it throughout my youth, being constantly having it thrust upon me (when anyone could see that it was not what such as I would call history of architecture!), and I still haven't quite capitulated.  When he died in 1918, Henry Cabot Lodge saw to the publication of The Education of Henry Adams, and in 1919 it won the Pulitzer Prize (it had been privately published in 1907, the year also that he suffered a stroke).  He has his volume in the Library of America now, besides the Modern Library edition always in print.  But you can go to Wikipedia for Henry and all the other Adamses.

It is not to show a Virgin much earlier than the ones that Henry Adams (at least, in this book) was invoking as the Force of the high middle ages that I chose to illustrate the Eternal Feminine (and Adams surely knew the final chorus of Goethe's Faust both because he had read the poem and because it was much quoted at the fin de siècle—though the first, Munich, performance of Mahler's 8th symphony, which concludes with it, was a little later).  Adams himself pointed out that it was not voluptuous goddess types that he meant but the female principle as deity, though not unsexed, powerful and demanding worship.  Of course, Aphrodite Ourania is not the same as Aphrodite Pandemos. (The illustrations provided on line are pretty bad).   He specified, in fact, the "Diana of the Ephesisan", the Artemis of Ephesus (his fellow New Englander, Thomas Bulfinch, preferred the Latin names), but unlike Gibbon Henry Adams  by age 60 had become modern enough not to call ancient goddesses 'pagan idols': the great cathedrals were built for, and in a sense by, Our Lady.  Her cult was the Force that was pervasive in medieval Europe.  The Greek church has the useful vocabulary: just as the Christ in the mosaic of the central dome of a church is the Pantokrator (the Lord of All), so his mother, the god-bearer (theotokos), in the mosaic of the main eastern apse of the church, is the Panaghia (which means, all-holy).  These images are icons, not illustrations.  Christ with his disciples, Mary at the foot of the cross, all the  pictures that tell the gospel stories, are different kinds of pictures, illustrations; the Pantokrator and the Panaghia in their appointed positions in churches  are icons that embody deity, just as Pheidias's Zeus at Olympia and Athena Parthenos on the Acropolis of Athens are iconic statues that embody deity.  As Adams points out near the end of Ch. XXV of The Education of Henry Adams, for John Adams's great grandson, born in Calvinist Quincy in 1838, to have realized all this, and a great deal more, by his sixties was extraordinary.  Yes, he had lost his wife in 1885, but so many lose their dearest friends and partners with no alteration but bitterness or sanctity.  Yet, his was the generation that saw a world more than stories or morals, let alone the Bible of the Unlettered,  in the great religious art and architecture of the 12th and 13th centuries.  In particular, America's enlightenment did begin with the industrial revolution.  And, though I'm not sure that she wasn't still covered with iconoclastic plaster in Adams's lifetime (though he did visit Hagia Sophia at least once), this truly august Panaghia (at top of this page) does show, I think, what he had realized, lovely as the Amiens Vierge Dorée surely is.

It takes close attention to understand everything Henry Adams is revealing to the reader (for he never conceals how astonished he is, for example by radium, and both he and Langley are aware that much that they do not understand may be frightening).  For one thing, he uses Greek and Latin terms, as 19th-century science often did, in their ancient senses, so that 'economy', for instance, is not about finances nor even its original Greek, which means roughly 'housekeeping'.  He often uses terms just as Francis Bacon had done.  Even physicists in the 1890s are still struggling with vocabulary—and Adams confesses to knowing almost no mathematics.  I find that close reading is the key to both enjoying and understanding him; he is no mystic, though a covert poet in Walt Whitman's terms, and we suddenly realize that no one understood radium at the time of its discovery.
But don't let me spoil it for you.
Not yet concealed by all those machines, turbines and the rest,  here is the famous photograph (anonymous, I think, but surely Archives Photographiques) showing the completed Galerie des Machines opposite the Tour Eiffel, also nearing completion.  It is made of units of pre-cast steel, not iron like St. Pancras Station a generation older.  The pages of Images on line include many period photographs of the Galerie while the Exposition was open, during which you could barely make out the building's bold beauty, and this was when Adams, on at least one occasion accompanied by Samuel Pierpont Langley (1834-1906), his personal friend, to explain the dynamos to him, but we have no record of his being impressed by the building itself, which was dressed up nearly as much as the London Crystal Palace had been.
1889, before the Exposition Universelle opened, this drawing shows what regularly was omitted from courses on the History of Architecture, how the spanning units were "pinned" together at the top, as well as the scale of the triangular "pylons" that, for my generation, had become like heroic icons of cast steel construction.  This is Mainstone's illustration, chosen to show how the very broad span was achieved, and on a tight schedule.  Rowland J. Mainstone, Developments in Structural Form, MIT press, Cambridge, MA, 1983, fig. 13.2.  This book is old now, but I know of nothing that replaces it.

The great dynamos (generators), forty feet in diameter, that Samuel Pierpont Langley shortly before the Paris Exposition (of 1889) closed in 1900, explained exhaustively to his friend Henry Adams, are not what today are hardly illustrated or discussed (see the Images pages).  For my generation,  the Hoover Dam (for example) made the massive generation of electricity intelligible.  What Adams does is to make us understand his own feelings in that Galerie des Machines.  By 1900 electric trains and trolleys were routine, too.  But from the train window (usually, of course, drawn by a steam engine) he noticed the huge mounds of mined coal everywhere.  He does not yet object to its ugliness, but does observe that the whole world's appearance has been altered.  In the later 20th century, it was the building itself that in the famous photographs had become iconic.
At a time of crisis, of meditation (one might say), he says that he finds himself praying, in effect, to the almost incomprehensible machines.  He also makes clear that, as with the cathedrals and the Virgin, it is not a case of religious conversion.  One of his most remarkable, one may say heroic, traits is refusal to swallow easy answers—to anything.  He has been reasoning relentlessly over the industrial revolution (as we have decided to call it), as well as new physics, ever since the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1892.  Both he and Langley agree that it is radium that is fearsome, and that because it does not obey their laws of physics.
(The Chicago Fair, of course, opened on the heels of the Depression; though persons whose home was in the LaFayette Square house, next to John Hay's (now replaced by the hotel named for them on its site), were not exactly ruined by it, still were shocked when they could not withdraw more than $50. —"of my own money"—from the bank).
Personally, studying all the photos of it available on line, I find the Chicago Fair (except for a few buildings) hideous; it had billboards sufficient to deface an entire Interstate Freeway system, with lettering fit for Coney Island.  And Adams, later, when he went to visit the St. Louis Fair, found the excessive use of white electric lights unpleasant, especially since (if we may trust his assessment—and we usually can, because otherwise he is not so explicit) it had practically nothing to show but itself, all white and uninteresting.  Paris, on the contrary, was packed with instructional exhibits.

If you just will read his book, you will see why I can't summarize.  Just take my word for it!  The old distinction between Personal and Private is perfectly exemplified.

Of course, it was the Vierge Dorée on the trumeau of the south portal of Amiens Cathedral that was best loved by Henry Adams's generation (he relates the experience of standing before it with his great friend Augustus St. Gaudens, but Proust also loved it).  This  exquisite ivory in Utrecht, only 26 cm high, is itself some two centuries later than the great Virgin at Hagia Sophia but also (Middle Byzantine, like the Harbaville Triptych) about two centuries earlier  than Amiens.  But you can find pages of photos good and bad of the Amiens Virgin in Google Images.

I did want to provide, since the pages of Images do not provide just what I want, though I have no idea whether Henry Adams ever saw the Utrecht ivory (or any of the several such Middle Byzantine BVM that survived post-iconoclasm) a worthy image of the Virgin.  The Virgin in the large apse of Hagia Sophia is, after all, colossal.  This one, though not miniature, is less than a foot tall.  The date must be close to that of the Harbaville Triptych in the Louvre.  In the center of the middle panel of the triptych is the Greek Orthodox subject called the Deësis.  The word means 'the beseeching', or 'entreaty' or simply 'prayer' (it is unrelated to the words for divinity), the verb being deomai.  Deësis is the prayer of the whole church, to begin with, ekklesia meaning congregation, but this image shows Mary and John on either side of Christ and in a gesture of entreaty, of intercession.  Christ is one in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; with her Assumption Mary stands in a special relationship to her Son, being (Assumption or not) theotokos, the god-bearer.  To say, therefore, with Adams (and I think with Goethe, too) that all those Notre Dame cathedrals are dedicated to the female expression of God, seems to me obvious.  And, no, I didn't look it up in any catechism, and neither did they.  But Regina Coeli is very much Aphrodite Ourania, isn't it?  Anyway, if we are going to perceive divinity in new Forces, we are only joining the ranks of the contemplatives, aren't we?  In any case, the theology of Deësis does help to bridge what Henry Adams perceived as a gap between the Cross and the Cathedral.

How leaden my own sentences are compared with those of Henry Adams!


Saturday, June 27, 2015

In a very black thunder storm

Taking pictures in stormy weather
On Thursday, June 25, in the early afternoon, the sky became so dark (and noisy) that it could have been dusk or some fearsome dust storm; there was barely enough light for the little Nikon 1 V2.  But by now carefree (an SD card is cheap, and the battery recharges very well) and remembering what Robert Doisneau said about the attractions of wet Paris streets, I thought it would be more fun than washing dishes, for example.  So here are some in order taken.  The +Google album in which I'll store them all is called EndJune2015 (but I found them at the end of "June 2015" in Picasa, and have not discovered how to do as I intended).  I provided them all with Info right in Photoshop.

25 June 2015 Outdoor to left, corner of shower to right.  Cat food that can be shared with outdoor creatures, mostly crows and bluejays right now.

From back door through laundry room, kitchen, and all the way to the front wall, though four rooms, the back porch being closed (evidently in the 1950s) to provide kitchen WC and shower and hot water heater (at left)

25Jun2015  What cat does not like to stop  in the doorway?

25Jun2015 The exterior SW corner; the only exterior tap; its wall enclosing WC; with wild fern gone wilder on the chainlink fence (there was once a dog back here); Taken in rain during thunder storm.
25Jun2015 Back to the utilities alley: the rain brings overnight tangle of elder vine, air potato, confederate jasmine, all hanging on fig tree (the figs will begin to turn pale purple next week).
25Jun2015 Back from back stoop and the decaying deck, across concrete pad with an inch of sudden puddling, the thunderstorm allows photographs impossible ordinarily. 
25Jun2015 Back from back stoop an oak twig from a couple of days ago fallen on the steps of the back stoop, showing water that will drain away in ten minutes but for the moment needs rubber clogs.

25Jun2015 Back from back stoop an oak twig from a couple of days ago fallen on the steps of the back stoop, showing water that will drain away in ten minutes but for the moment needs rubber clogs.  I like this zoomed detail best of all.  Luckily, the yard man had not yet come to clean things up.

I really have nothing to say that the images don't say better.
Zooming, I took them all without getting wet myself.
They were cropped in the taking.