Thursday, June 21, 2007

Link Added

I added a link to the Dictionary of the History of Ideas. The site reprints essays from the out of print book by the same name, on pivotal intellectual themes in Western civilization, from casuistry to "myth in antiquity" to "macrocosm and microcosm" to "time". See the index here.

Indian Folk Music can listen to and watch it here.

Image of the day: Rapatronic Nuke photo

Capturing a photo of a nuclear explosion as the fireball just begins to blossom seems all but impossible, yet the rapatronic camera achieved this. The camera was able to capture exposures as short as 10 nanoseconds, and provides an eerie photographic record of the first moments of above-ground nuclear tests.

In this exposure, the bomb was elevated above the ground on a tower stabilized by metal cables. The spikes from the bottom of the explosion were called "rope tricks".

More photos and explanation here.

Ravens and Ravenmaster

Since the Tower of London no longer functions as a fortress, royal palace, prison, treasury, zoo, mint, etc., its only permanent residents are now Beefeaters (Yeoman Warders) and ravens. Should the ravens ever depart the tower, the monarchy will fall (or so the legend goes). They are looked after by a full-time Ravenmaster, selected from the Yeoman Warders. The ravens speak a little English (one even had a word or two for Vladimir Putin), and enjoy a hearty diet:

Adults: 6oz raw meat daily
Young: 9oz raw meat daily
Meat is usually liver, lambs' hearts and beef or pork trimming
A boiled egg, complete with shell for the adult birds, every other day
Bird biscuits soaked in blood every other day
Occasional part of rabbit, complete with fur for roughage
Monthly food bill is about £120

The Bird Flu scare last year forced the Ravenmaster to keep the birds indoors, click that link to listen to an interview with the Ravenmaster.

Henry Fielding and the critics

The following quotes are from Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, one of the greatest novels of the English language. Fielding had little patience for literary critics, and lashes out at them at several points within the novel. He was apparently not concerned with the book's critical reception:

[from the prologue to book X]:

Reader, it is impossible we should know what sort of person thou wilt
be; for, perhaps, thou may'st be as learned in human nature as
Shakespear himself was, and, perhaps, thou may'st be no wiser than
some of his editors. Now, lest this latter should be the case, we
think proper, before we go any farther together, to give thee a few
wholesome admonitions; that thou may'st not as grossly misunderstand
and misrepresent us, as some of the said editors have misunderstood
and misrepresented their author.

First, then, we warn thee not too hastily to condemn any of the
incidents in this our history as impertinent and foreign to our main
design, because thou dost not immediately conceive in what manner such
incident may conduce to that design. This work may, indeed, be
considered as a great creation of our own; and for a little reptile of
a critic to presume to find fault with any of its parts, without
knowing the manner in which the whole is connected, and before he
comes to the final catastrophe, is a most presumptuous absurdity. The
allusion and metaphor we have here made use of, we must acknowledge to
be infinitely too great for our occasion; but there is, indeed, no
other, which is at all adequate to express the difference between an
author of the first rate and a critic of the lowest...

[from the prologue to book XI, "A Crust for the Critics"]:

...But in reality there is another light, in which these modern critics
may, with great justice and propriety, be seen; and this is that of a
common slanderer. If a person who prys into the characters of others,
with no other design but to discover their faults, and to publish them
to the world, deserves the title of a slanderer of the reputations of
men, why should not a critic, who reads with the same malevolent view,
be as properly stiled the slanderer of the reputation of books?

Vice hath not, I believe, a more abject slave; society produces not a
more odious vermin; nor can the devil receive a guest more worthy of
him, nor possibly more welcome to him, than a slanderer. The world, I
am afraid, regards not this monster with half the abhorrence which he
deserves; and I am more afraid to assign the reason of this criminal
lenity shown towards him; yet it is certain that the thief looks
innocent in the comparison; nay, the murderer himself can seldom stand
in competition with his guilt: for slander is a more cruel weapon than
a sword, as the wounds which the former gives are always incurable.
One method, indeed, there is of killing, and that the basest and most
execrable of all, which bears an exact analogy to the vice here
disclaimed against, and that is poison: a means of revenge so base,
and yet so horrible, that it was once wisely distinguished by our laws
from all other murders, in the peculiar severity of the punishment...

[some of the attacks are within the body of the novel itself, such as Book IV, III, "Containing Two Defiances to the Critics]:
And here, in defiance of all the barking critics in the world, I must
and will introduce a digression concerning true wisdom, of which Mr.
Allworthy was in reality as great a pattern as he was of goodness...

His attacks on critics are but one of many entertaining digressions within the novel. The author had a great sense of humor. In 1740, while serving as Justice of the Peace, Fielding issued an arrest warrant for playwright Colley Cibber, charged with "murder of the English language".

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Tidbit of Useless Trivia

The Cream of Wheat man was real, and a Michigander. Frank L. White, we salute you. If you are from Michigan, this knowledge just might change the way you experience the wondrous hayride that is Cream of Wheat.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Image of the Day

Colored Drops. Part of a collection found here.