Marking time on ratbags
Lighthouses in the spotlight
The ABC Radio National program Off Track is on my regular listening list. Each week Ann Jones interviews all sorts of ratbags and obsessives. She catches the intimate voice of her subjects, along with the sonic atmosphere of the places they inhabit, and assembles radio pieces that teleport the listener there. Magic.
To mark the centenary of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Ann Jones has made a program with a focus on the Queensland timber-framed, iron-clad towers that I am so fond of.
I got to be one of Ann’s subjects this time. I met her beside the Brisbane River at the Queensland Maritime Museum and we talked lighthouses. She wove our conversation in with the sounds of Double Island Point and the voices of Lyndon O’Grady, Jack Duvoisin, Col Gladstone, and Glenn Wiggin, and made a wonderful show, if I may say so.
I’m the kind of guy who uses a controlled vocabulary to keyword his photos. This means that I use consistent words to describe things. Am I sadly obsessive? Maybe, but there are benefits.
There are about 75,000 images in my Lightroom catalog—some scanned, some born digital. I have assigned keywords and other useful metadata to almost all of them. For keywords I use the Getty Research Institute’s excellent Art & Architecture Thesaurus, the Australian Pictorial Thesaurus, and my own controlled lists of terms for projects, places, people, and specialised subjects.
Quite a regal station
The Brisbane Courier-Mail newspaper published this letter to the editor on Wednesday 5 May 1937, under the heading Coincidence of names:
Sir,—I think it is rather interesting to note that the three lightkeepers recently stationed at Cape Moreton Lighthouse were named L. R. King, H. P. Earl, and L. Marquis, making quite a regal station.—I am, sir, &c.,
H. P. Earl.
Mary Street, Wynnum.
On Dickens’s bookshelf
Today, on Charles Dickens’s two-hundredth birthday, and given my interest in creative workers’ workspaces, it’s time for a little distraction…
His study at Tavistock House was a large room with sliding doors which lead into the drawing room; Dickens liked to open these doors and thus, during the mornings given over to composition, walk up and down the whole length of the house. Pacing around as he contemplated the next sentence, the next word. And it was here, in his new study, that he began work on ‘Bleak House’. [Peter Ackroyd, Dickens (London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990) page 637].
Tavistock House was a Georgian town house fronting Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury. Dickens bought the lease in 1851, and ordered refurbishments which he energetically supervised. The decor in his study, like the other rooms, received his close attention. He had the sliding doors embellished with dummy bookshelves, and commissioned a book binder to produce a set of sham book spines. Here is a letter he wrote to the binder:
Dear Mr. Eeles,»more»
I send you the list I have made for the book-backs. I should like the “History of a Short Chancery Suit” to come at the bottom of one recess, and the “Catalogue of Statues of the Duke of Wellington” at the bottom of the other. If you should want more titles, and will let me know how many, I will send them to you. Faithfully yours.
LIST OF IMITATION BOOK-BACKS.
Tavistock House, 1851.
Five Minutes in China. 3 vols.
Forty Winks at the Pyramids. 2 vols.
Abernethy on the Constitution. 2 vols.
Mr. Green’s Overland Mail. 2 vols.
Captain Cook’s Life of Savage. 2 vols.
A Carpenter’s Bench of Bishops. 2 vols.
Toot’s Universal Letter-Writer. 2 vols.
Orson’s Art of Etiquette.
Downeaster’s Complete Calculator.
History of the Middling Ages. 6 vols.
Jonah’s Account of the Whale.
Captain Parry’s Virtues of Cold Tar.
Kant’s Ancient Humbugs. 10 vols.
Bowwowdom. A Poem.
The Quarrelly Review. 4 vols.
The Gunpowder Magazine. 4 vols.
Steele. By the Author of “Ion.”
The Art of Cutting the Teeth.
Matthew’s Nursery Songs. 2 vols.
Paxton’s Bloomers. 5 vols.
On the Use of Mercury by the Ancient Poets.
Drowsy’s Recollections of Nothing. 3 vols.
Heavyside’s Conversations with Nobody. 3 vols.
Commonplace Book of the Oldest Inhabitant. 2 vols.
Growler’s Gruffiology, with Appendix. 4 vols.
The Books of Moses and Sons. 2 vols.
Burke (of Edinburgh) on the Sublime and Beautiful. 2 vols.
King Henry the Eighth’s Evidences of Christianity. 5 vols.
Miss Biffin on Deportment.
Morrison’s Pills Progress. 2 vols.
Lady Godiva on the Horse.
Munchausen’s Modern Miracles. 4 vols.
Richardson’s Show of Dramatic Literature. 12 vols.
Hansard’s Guide to Refreshing Sleep. As many volumes as possible.
A lucky find: This odd photograph, in an album of Queensland views, in the collection of the State Library of Queensland. The catalogue entry says the album was created by Henry Mobsby, a photographer on the staff of the Department of Agriculture and Stock, perhaps for presentation to James Orr, a senior bureaucrat in the Department.»more»
50 years of Strunk & White
The elements of style (3rd edition, 1979) lurks on the shelf near my dictionaries and style guides. Some of its specific advice on grammar is weird, so it’s not a useful reference book. But as an argument for clarity in writing it’s wonderful.
White’s reworking of William Strunk’s original little book appeared in 1959, and was a publishing hit. Its anniversary has been marked by a new commemorative edition, and a flurry of comment.»more»
Goat exhibitors only
Seen on a visit to the RNA showgrounds.»more»
Object of obsession: the lead pencil
Bob Truby is the author of the website Brand name pencils, of which he says: This site has been designed to visually introduce to you the incredibly diverse world of brand name pencils. I trust that you will be amazed at the sheer number of pencil brands once produced in the USA and abroad. Sadly those days are over and the craftsmanship, skill and pride once put into the ordinary pencil is but a thing of the past.»more»
Some idle reading about ways to break a paragraph into lines took me to an article in Wikipedia about TeX, the typesetting program created by Donald Knuth. A consumate ratbag, as I surmise from the article:»more»
Hundertwasser: the musical
Artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) has inspired Hundertwasser: das Musical, staged in the German city of Uelzen.
How many architects have been cast as theatrical heroes? Could this be the start of a new genre? Perhaps Marquis-Kyle: the restoration comedy.»more»
This post commemorates a visit Thom Blake and I made to Oondooroo, a pastoral homestead outside Winton that has a remarkable collection of stone buildings. (Writing about this event is really just a pretext for linking to Thom’s website, and sooling the googlebots on to it).»more»
Snakes and spiders
From Samuel Pepys’s diary entry for this day in 1661:
To Westminster Hall, where it was full term. Here all the morning, and at noon to my Lord Crew’s, where one Mr. Templer (an ingenious man and a person of honour he seems to be) dined; and, discoursing of the nature of serpents, he told us some that in the waste places of Lancashire do grow to a great bigness, and that do feed upon larks, which they take thus: They observe when the lark is soared to the highest, and do crawl till they come to be just underneath them; and there they place themselves with their mouths uppermost, and there, as is conceived, they do eject poyson up to the bird; for the bird do suddenly come down again in its course of a circle, and falls directly into the mouth of the serpent; which is very strange. He is a great traveller; and, speaking of the tarantula, he says that all the harvest long (about which times they are most busy) there are fidlers go up and down the fields every where, in expectation of being hired by those that are stung….
My congratulations to Josh Larios and Cam Parish for drainspotting.com. The site lacks the polished presentation of the mirror project, but it is built on the same idea of users contributing to a shared collection of images. [Thanks to Caterina for pointing it out].»more»
The Victorian Taxidermy Company Limited is offering a collection of fish cases for sale—including the famous Marston Pike:»more»
New York bohemians»more»
Hellfire and dalmatians
You can get this design printed on a T-shirt, mug or mousepad — it makes a pair with Sally’s drawing.»more»
New York rats
City Councilor Bill Perkins is campaigning against the rodents of New York. He has written a piece in the Gotham Gazette:»more»
Last year, my sister Fiona commented here: Our local dog-friendly park provides doggy-do bag waterproof receptacles. This is a refreshing alternative to sharps containers… Each doggy-do bag contains a handy rectangle of cardboard for use as a scraper. Whether you want it or not, I will send you one. An unused one, be assured.»more»
Fiona Gardiner: it’s your birthday!
Which prompts me to scan and share this newspaper clipping from The Australian of 15 November 1974. On the left is a story about a campaign by Fiona Gardiner and Helen Wilson to conserve the works of the South Brisbane Gas Co. On the right is a piece about the area that would later become Cooloola National Park.
Back then Jo Bjelke-Petersen was the staunchly pro-development Premier of Queensland. Gough Whitlam was the Prime Minister and the National Estate Inquiry had recently reported. The Australian Heritage Commission Act was still in the future. To suggest conserving a gas works was the business of ratbags.
Now it’s become — like us perhaps — respectable, sort of.»more»
My daughter Sally (4 ¾ years old) made this drawing. I said, “Oh, I like that spotted dog! What sort of dog is that?” She said, “It’s a damnation”.»more»
Jorn Barger is a collector, of a sort—though you wouldn’t know what sort, exactly, from gazing on his worldly possessions. A long-haired, thick-bearded former artificial-intelligence (AI) programmer in his forties, Barger lives in genteel poverty, sharing an apartment with roommates in Chicago’s scruffy West Rogers Park neighborhood. His bedroom once held a lot of books, but he had to sell them off some time ago; the principal fixtures remaining are a secondhand Macintosh with built-in television, a boom-box radio, and a bed. Barger spends his days in the bed, and there—sitting with the Mac’s keyboard in his lap and its monitor beside him—he collects: A color-coded map of the world’s language families. A discussion of the various titles Proust considered and discarded for Remembrance of Things Past. A National Enquirer article on “who’s doing yoga in Hollywood.” A BBC item on the evolution of cooperation among capuchin monkeys. Some photos of Fisher-Price Little People repainted as characters from Futurama. A FAIR analysis of recent mainstream news coverage of the IMF and the World Bank. An oddly evocative Webcam shot from the Jennicam Web site. A tribute to the Spanish-language children’s television show El Club de los Tigritos. A compilation of Noam Chomsky resources on the Web. A detailed list of textual correspondences between James Joyce’s Ulysses and Homer’s Odyssey. A phrase that Barger dreamed last night on the edge of waking.»more»
This is yet another website that consists of an ordered collection of related objects. Burners from discarded gas appliances are collected here, and sorted into piles: from stoves [subdivided into stovetop, broiler, hot plate], from heaters [space, hanger, hot water], and from commercial kitchen equipment. Lined up for inspection, these burners invite us to enjoy and compare their physiognomies.»more»
An Act to Protect Motor Vehicles from Dangerous Pedestrians
From the annals of wrong thinking—an American politician has tried to solve a problem by introducing a bill:
[Democrat Representative Christopher O’Neil] is sponsoring a bill to repeal Maine’s law that says a motorist must yield the right of way to a pedestrian who is crossing within a marked crosswalk.
The very title of his bill, “An Act to Protect Motor Vehicles From Dangerous Pedestrians,” has generated a round of chuckles and wisecracks in the State House among those who are convinced that O’Neil can’t be serious. But the Saco Democrat has news for them.
“It’s not a joke bill,” said O’Neil, who has no co-sponsors on the measure before the Transportation Committee.
O’Neil said it’s time for Maine to rethink a law that he believes has put too many people at risk of injury or death on the state’s streets, particularly in congested downtown shopping areas.
Rise up, you pedestrians, and Be Dangerous!
German web designer Jens Veerbeck indulges himself with a toaster museum attached to his business site. Like the letterpress museum this is a collection that can be filtered various ways — in this case, by country of origin, by features, and by manufacturer. Our host writes:
Collecting bread tags
Here’s another one for the ratbag file. Someone known as Transactoid has an online collection of bread tags, with illustrated notes about tag types and terminology for collectors. Compared with this, even banana stickers or vomit bags sound engaging.»more»
Museum of Jurassic technology»more»
Ratbag of note: Sam Sloan
Jack of all trades and New York taxi driver Sam Sloan is opinionated and litigious. He’s obsessed with chess, he’s suing the city Taxi Commission, he doubts President Clinton’s parentage, he has a political solution for Afghanistan, and he relentlessly follows those who have done him wrong.»more»
Ratbag of note: Erik von Sneidern
Erik runs the Disstonian Institute, a website full of arcane information about Disston saws. Henry Disston started making saws in 1840 and for the next hundred years Disston saws were the best in America.»more»
Any person whose eccentricity I find appealing I am apt to call a ratbag. To me, it’s a word that implies fondness, an Australian idiom it seems. The British dictionaries either don’t know the word, or don’t see any positive connotation in it, and my old Websters doesn’t know the word at all. Here’s what I found:»more»
The Fritz collection
In 1993 in a bric-a-brac store the Viennese artist Oliver Croy discovered somebody’s oeuvre packed away in rubbish bags: 387 model buildings and a collection of ca. 3,000 slides. He bought them all for about 500 Euro. The slides document the period from 1965 to 1975, often showing an obese man, a bald-headed person of regular habits, orderly dressed, wearing old fashioned glasses. The slides are also showing several travels together with his female collegue and his wife, on the trip with their VW beetle. The destinations were, with few exceptions, the Austrian Alps.
See the article at designboom.com.