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Marking time on ratbags

Tuesday 20 March 2012

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.
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Wednesday 7 March 2012

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,

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.
Teazer’s Commentaries.
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.
»more»

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Tuesday 1 June 2010

Camouflage

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.

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Friday 17 April 2009

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.

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Wednesday 15 October 2008

Goat exhibitors only

Seen on a visit to the RNA showgrounds.

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Sunday 10 August 2008

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.

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Sunday 11 December 2005

Donald Knuth

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:

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Saturday 20 August 2005

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.

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Thursday 7 April 2005

Oondooroo

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).

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Friday 4 February 2005

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….

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Tuesday 25 May 2004

Drainspotting

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»

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Saturday 21 February 2004

Stuffed fish

The Victorian Taxidermy Company Limited is offering a collection of fish cases for sale​—​including the famous Marston Pike:

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Sunday 15 February 2004

New York bohemians

Here’s a sequel to my reference to New York rats: a feature in the Morning News which maps the haunts of New York bohemians.

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Monday 22 December 2003

Hellfire and dalmatians

You can get this design printed on a T-shirt, mug or mousepad — it makes a pair with Sally’s drawing.

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Thursday 11 December 2003

New York rats

City Councilor Bill Perkins is campaigning against the rodents of New York. He has written a piece in the Gotham Gazette:

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Sunday 30 November 2003

Doggy-do bags

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.

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Saturday 8 November 2003

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.

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Monday 3 November 2003

Damnation dog

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”.

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Tuesday 22 July 2003

Jorn Barger

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.
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Tuesday 15 July 2003

stoveburner.com

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.

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Wednesday 29 January 2003

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!

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Monday 26 August 2002

Toaster museum

Australian Hotpoint toaster, early 1920s (Toaster museum)

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:

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Saturday 17 August 2002

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.

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Friday 1 March 2002

Museum of Jurassic technology

The MJT is my special place for this month. Here’s a selection of websites that illuminate that remarkable institution:

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Sunday 24 February 2002

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.

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Sunday 30 December 2001

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.

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Thursday 27 December 2001

Ratbag

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:

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Friday 21 December 2001

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.

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Search marquis-kyle.com.au

On this page
Quite a regal station
On Dickens's bookshelf
Camouflage
50 years of Strunk & White
Goat exhibitors only
Object of obsession: the lead pencil
Donald Knuth
Hundertwasser: the musical
Oondooroo
Snakes and spiders
Drainspotting
Stuffed fish
New York bohemians
Hellfire and dalmatians
New York rats
Doggy-do bags
Fiona Gardiner: it's your birthday!
Damnation dog
Jorn Barger
stoveburner.com
An Act to Protect Motor Vehicles from Dangerous Pedestrians
Toaster museum
Collecting bread tags
Museum of Jurassic technology
Ratbag of note: Sam Sloan
Ratbag of note: Erik von Sneidern
Ratbag
The Fritz collection

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