Marking time on society
A look-out on Christmas eve
For a greeting card this summer solstice I have chosen this wood engraving from 1866. It may prompt us to lift our minds up from the Christmas carols, Christmas shopping, Christmas presents, Christmas drinks, Christmas pudding—to spare a thought for (ahem) Christmas Island.
Oops, sorry. I’m not supposed to talk about politics or religion at a Christmas gathering. Let’s just enjoy the picture and the text. The scene was drawn by J A Pasquier, an obscure artist. His work, and the work of the even more obscure engraver who signed with a monogram on the bottom-right, is a morally-uplifting tale of devotion to duty, suitable for warming the hearts of respectable folk at Christmas time.
George Verney turns professional
My search for knowledge about my great-great-grand-uncle Daniel Marquis has boosted my interest in the other photographers who were at work in Brisbane in the 1860s and ’70s.
Daniel Marquis set up his photographic studio in Brisbane around 1866, in George Street, opposite St John’s Pro-Cathedral. He was already a competent operator, with ten years’ experience in Scotland, and he found a ready market for his work in Brisbane. By 1868 he was advertising his position as photographer by appointment to His Excellency Colonel Blackall, the Governor of Queensland. A vice-regal appointment was a mark of competence and respectability.
Governor Blackall lived in Government House at the smarter end of George Street, several blocks southeast from Daniel’s studio, past the upmarket Harris Terrace, the Bellevue Hotel, the Botanical Gardens and the Houses of Parliament.
Blackall’s aide-de-camp was an army officer, Lieutenant George Verney—an amateur photographer. Photography in the wet-plate era was technically difficult, expensive, and mostly the province of professionals.
As an amateur Verney photographed Government House, its residents and visitors. Some of his photographs have survived in an album, now in the National Library of Australia, that give an intimate and personal picture of life in the house. He and Daniel Marquis must have known one another, and I like to imagine them discussing the art and craft of photography.
Governor Blackall stood on the top rung of the social ladder in colonial Queensland. The rank of the principal members of his staff, including George Verney, was elevated by their connection with the person and functions of the governor.
Funeral for a house
Each year in the city of Philadelphia almost 600 houses are demolished—houses imbued with meaning for the people who lived in them or were otherwise connected to them. Here are two documentary videos about an attempt to properly mark the demolition of one of those houses.
A fetching pantsuit
In these crazy times it is a welcome distraction to read how Hillary Clinton’s husband wore a fetching pantsuit to honor her nomination for US president.
This will be my fifth year of sending out Christmas cards by email. It’s my way to cut the clutter that comes with the summer solstice.
This season’s card displays another sentimental picture from a Victorian illustrated magazine. Please enjoy more strange customs (involving bunches of prickly and parasitic vegetation); more foreign places (England, in the 1890s); and more outmoded technology (the rowing boat, the paddle steamer, the wood engraving).
A Christmas pudding at sea
In the late 1800s illustrated weekly newspapers published some of the best artists of the day, through the medium of the wood engraving, as I have mentioned before. Before half-tone reproduction of photographs came in, this was the common way to publish realistic images of both ordinary and extraordinary events.
I have chosen another wood engraving for my email Christmas card for 2014—the fourth in a series. There is no lighthouse in this one, but there is a Christmas pudding, and a story of life at sea. The artist was Edwin Buckman (1841–1930) and he called the picture A Christmas pudding at sea.
Noel Pearson remembers Gough Whitlam
Thanks to the ABC for recording Noel Pearson’s powerful address at the state memorial service for Gough Whitlam in Sydney Town Hall today. The whole address is in the video below. Pearson spoke of Whitlam’s government as the textbook case of reform trumping management. Here’s a taste:
Etymology of a microphone
As I was reading about the technicalities of sound recording, I wondered where the lavalier microphone got its name—(a lavalier is the little microphone you sometimes see clipped to peoples’ shirts when they are interviewed on TV). I did some digging and here’s what I found.
I have been at the Woodford Folk Festival for a couple of days, giving a little presentation about researching environmental issues.
Instead of the usual bring-your-own-tent arrangement, I stayed in Tent City. This is an area where somebody else has already put up the tents before you arrive, and has put comfortable beds in them. There is also a communal tent with a cold room, tables, chairs, and boiling water on tap—and a table with mains power where campers can charge their phones. When I looked, the table was covered with a mess of Apple iPhones, and very few other types.
The rowdyism and brutality of the uneducated and ill-bred
As I was searching for references to the Merrie England in the Australian newspapers, I turned up a piece of moralising titilation which connected that steam yacht with stories of Victorian scandals. The commentary was prompted by the death and life of George Baird, one of Lillie Langtry’s lovers, but it also mentioned Mr Bailey for whom the Merrie England was originally built.
Lovelocked in Paris
In the New York Times Agnes Poirier writes about a social phenomenon I noticed in Paris—lovers writing their names on padlocks, snapping the locks on the balustrades of bridges over the Seine, and throwing the keys into the river.
“The fools! They haven’t understood a thing about love, have they?” was the conclusion recently of a 23-year-old waiter at Panis, a cafe on the Left Bank with a view over Notre-Dame. At the heart of love à la française lies the idea of freedom. To love truly is to want the other free, and this includes the freedom to walk away. Love is not about possession or property. Love is no prison where two people are each other’s slaves. Love is not a commodity, either. Love is not capitalist, it is revolutionary. If anything, true love shows you the way to selflessness.»more»
A well-executed likeness
I just added to my little collection a carte-de-visite portrait of Colonel Samuel Wensley Blackall (1809-1871). Blackall was appointed Governor of Queensland in 1868, and died in office. In the photograph he sits in an arm chair with a sword between his legs and a feather hat on his knee. The setting is plain—there are no drapes, no columns, no furniture apart from the chair. The only decoration is the patterned linoleum on the studio floor.
It’s odd that he was photographed sitting down, rather than standing upright in a formal military pose as I would have expected for a governor’s portrait. Perhaps he was suffering from the illness from which he died. I don’t know what ailment caused his death, but I have read a suggestion it was something he caught in the tropics—he had been governor of colonies in West Africa and the West Indies.»more»
A most delightful trip (not)
A hundred years ago the postcard was a favoured medium for quick informal messaging. The limited space, and the idea of quick communication, encouraged a short, informal writing style—having a great time, wish you were here. Perhaps the fact that somebody bought and posted a card said as much as the words written on the back.»more»
Cairns Railway Red Cross Guild
My grandfather John Victor Marquis-Kyle (1897-1981) believed in doing volunteer work for the common good. During the Second World War, working at weekends and evenings with a small group of men in a workshop under his house, he made crutches for the Red Cross. I can remember him talking about this, and it sounded like he enjoyed both the companionship of working together and the feeling of ‘doing something useful’. Making a pair of crutches for an injured soldier was a very personal and practical help.»more»
I did think that the old dress code might still apply at the Queensland Club. I should have acted on that thought yesterday, instead of arriving without a coat and tie. Staff of the club graciously took me aside and fitted me with a jacket and tie from the rack of items kept for times like this.
I was at the club to talk to a group of members who gather each month to hear a lecture about some historical subject. Several dozen men, mostly retired professionals, sat down to lunch of salmon and vegetables, then heard my talk about Queensland lighthouse history. We had some excellent discussion, very good-humoured and companionable.»more»
I have just re-discovered this portrait in my little box of cabinet photos. How could you look this stylish fellow in the face and remain anti-macassar?»more»
David Malouf at West End Library
My local public library opened in 1929, and today we marked it’s 80th birthday with a talk by David Malouf, and a birthday cake.»more»
Romanian horse ban
In case you missed it: A post to the Transylvanian horseman blog encourages people to lobby the President of Romania to change a law recently imposed. The law prohibits horsedrawn vehicles on National Highways.»more»
Running the numbers
Chris Jordan’s Running the numbers: an American self-portrait is a series of photographs that looks at contemporary American culture through the austere lens of statistics. Here are images that give scale to the numbers.»more»
That fine photographer Paul Fusco has recorded the funerals of American soldiers killed in Iraq. He has web-published 44 of his pictures, with his voice-over narrative, under the title Bitter fruit.
Fusco is passionate, and thoroughly engaged with his subject. He takes us along on his private and independent quest. He is the antithesis of the embedded reporter. The work is published by Magnum Photos, the agency owned by Fusco and other photographers.
How the other half lived
The French city of Lyon has set up a fleet of bicycles for anyone to use. Buy a plastic card (€5 for one year) which allows you to take a bike from a bike station. The first half hour’s use is free; after that it costs €1 per hour. Brilliant. Google helped me to translate this piece from the municipal website:»more»
Susan Sontag remembered
Among the many obits, I particularly liked William Drenttel’s In remembrance of Susan Sontag.
Farewell Theo Van Gogh
From Yahoo! News: Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh slain.»more»
Health versus Roads
A Sydney newspaper article reveals a piece of single-minded planning.»more»
Charles Cushman photographs
Charles Weever Cushman, amateur photographer and Indiana University alumnus, bequeathed approximately 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater. The photographs in this collection bridge a thirty-two year span from 1938 to 1969, during which time he extensively documented the United States as well as other countries.»more»
Irish sock glue
The irishsteps.com website sells sock glue for keeping your socks secure while you dance. And I thought sock glueing was only a Japanese thing. What next? Hat glue, for windy weather?
Mobiles and the appropriation of place
Cultural anthropolist Mizuko Ito has written an article about the way mobile phones are changing the experience of being together for young Japanese people:»more»
The Kodak Brownies
George Eastman’s Kodak company launched the first Brownie camera in 1900. In 1950 Kodak gave free cameras to 500,000 children, to celebrate 50 years of the Brownie line. (And, perhaps, to ensure continued film sales).»more»
Revolutionary influence of the bicycle
The bicycle has been responsible for more movement in manners and morals than anything since Charles II. Chaperones, long narrow skirts, tight corsets have wilted, strong nerves, legs and language, knickers, knowledge of make and shape, equality of sex, good digestion and professional occupation have bloomed. In four words, the emancipation of women. — John Galsworthy (1867-1933), quoted on Ockhams Razor.»more»
Reclaim the beach!
See Peter Spearitt’s piece on the Brisbane Institute website in which he reveals the liberties taken by beachside developers to lure potential customers, and why we don’t have to keep off the beach, just because they say so. Yes, assert your right to walk on the beach!»more»
In New York thousands of pictures of people in Baghdad have been pasted up in the streets, a prompt to consider the human consequences of attacking Iraq. Join the campaign.»more»
Rice for Iraq
This is from an email message that is going around:»more»
The third gasoline war
From a piece by Professor Ian Roberts of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: The second gasoline war and how we can prevent the third:
War in Iraq is inevitable. That there would be war was decided by north American planners in the mid-1920s. That it would be in Iraq was decided much more recently. The architects of this war were not military planners but town planners. War is inevitable not because of weapons of mass destruction as claimed by the political right, nor Western imperialism as claimed by the left. The cause of this war, and probably the one that will follow, is car dependence.
The United States has paved itself into a corner. The physical and economic infrastructure of the United States is so highly car dependent that it is pathologically addicted to oil. Without billions of barrels of precious black sludge being pumped into the veins of the US economy every year, the nation would experience painful and damaging withdrawal.
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!
Fire at Mount Stromlo
The ABC website has a story about the tragic fires around Canberra. Four people dead, at least 368 houses destroyed, and the historic Mount Stromlo Observatory in ruins.»more»
Everything Bucky knew
Everything I know is a complete video, audio and text record of a Richard Buckminster Fuller talkathon:»more»
Blogging Australian historiography
My thanks to Dr Cathie Clements for pointing out her post on the Australian Council of Professional Historians Forum (14 January 2003). She starts with an annotated list of blog entries, signposting recent arguments about The Truth of what happened between Aborigines and Europeans.»more»
Signs of discrimination
The US Library of Congress houses the work created in the 1930s by Farm Security Administration photographers—Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and others. On the library website is a collection of photographs of signs enforcing racial discrimination. From the web page intro:»more»
Rewriting Australian history
Gary Sauer-Thompson’s public opinion weblog carries a piece by Dr Cathie Clement — here’s an excerpt:
Australia’s past is under the microscope. Allegations are flying thick and fast as scholars endeavour to defend “orthodox” history against the tabloid version preferred by Keith Windschuttle and his supporters. The term “orthodox”, as it is being used in the press, is misleading because, until the battle over Aboriginal history began, the historiography now targeted by conservative commentators was generally viewed as left-wing rather than orthodox.
With friends like these…
US Congressman Tom DeLay:»more»
Traditional fire warning rhythm
Jeremy Hedley, an Australian in Tokyo, has posted a sound clip on his blog. He writes:»more»
4 wheel drivers
Just as I thought. From a book review in the Washington Monthly:
According to market research conducted by the country’s leading automakers, Bradsher reports, [Sport Utility Vehicle] buyers tend to be “insecure and vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their neighbors and communities. They are more restless, more sybaritic, and less social than most Americans are. They tend to like fine restaurants a lot more than off-road driving, seldom go to church and have limited interest in doing volunteer work to help others.” [Link from Arts & Letters Daily].»more»
World AIDS Day 2002
Six weeks ago, the mother of a five month-old baby girl noticed that her daughter was breathing rapidly. She had never been to the pediatrician before — somehow, the mother had managed to avoid all of the regular infant visits — but she knew that there was something wrong with her daughter’s health, and felt that a doctor’s visit was in order… [Read the rest of this story in Q Daily News.]
Whale on the menu
IKEDA, Osaka — Children at public elementary schools in Ikeda will be feed [sic] whale meat with their school lunches for the first time in 23 years, education officials said Saturday. [From the online Mainichi Daily News today.]
From other headlines I gather this is a newspaper with a specific range of interests. The twelve big stories today include a fatal knifing, a fatal car crash, torture of a schoolgirl, a captive teen sex slave, discovery of three skeletons, a child molesting cop, offensive actions by a business man towards a schoolgirl on an escalator, and (see above) whale meat.
Rock art under threat
Robert Bednarik has published this web page about the threatened destruction of a rich collection of Indigenous rock art in north-western Australia:»more»
Waste management in Nevada
Steel cargo containers of solid transuranic waste are being stacked for above ground storage at the Nevada Test Site Area 5 Radioactive Waste Management Site. Each container holds up to 50 drums of transuranic waste.
This is a photograph made available by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Operations Office, Office of Public Affairs and Information.»more»
My sister, blogging vicariously, has asked me to mention an anniversary that’s coming up in a few days. OK Fiona, I’ll do it by quoting from Salvador Allende’s leftist regime 1970-1973:»more»
The computer in front of me is my ninth. Its predecessors averaged less than two years on my desk. The superseded computers have trickled down to other people, then been sold or given away. When last seen, all of them worked well but couldn’t manage the latest software — practical proof of Parkinson’s law of data. Here’s the list of PCs and where I last saw them:»more»
From an article in the Washington Post:
“A quite sophisticated text messaging network has sprung up,” an “insider” told the Scottish Daily Record. “If [Prince] William is spotted anywhere in the town then messages are sent out” on his admirers’ cell phones. “It starts off quite small. The first messages are then forwarded to more girls and so on. It just has a snowball effect. Informing 100 girls of his movements takes just seconds.” At one bar, the prince had to be moved to a safe location when more than 100 “lusty ladies,” so alerted, suddenly mobbed the place like cats responding to the sound of a can opener.
Bringing dummies to life
The Homeland Secuirty Home Page [sic] promotes a line of dummy security officers, intended to stand around giving people a sense of protection: These are no ordinary dummies. They are robotic and made to fool even the biggest skeptic. There are two models, a full length standing figure of 6’2” that gives the impression of a man that would weigh 220 pounds although he only weighs 35 pounds, and an above-the-waist-only figure designed to lurk behind rooftop parapets (adjustable for different parapet heights). The pictures and video clips did not convince me. One of those loudspeakers that says woof! woof! would make me feel more protected.
Hats of meat
To follow yesterday’s piece about animal glue, I want to thank this link.
Zanzibar in Dublin
When I wondered yesterday what does a themed bar look like when it’s in Ireland?, I should have known the answer would be on the web: The theme is African/Middle Eastern and thankfully there’s not too much wood. Lots of marble effect, big paintings and drapes. A huge place with a very high ceiling, it can hold around 1,500 people. A most impressive pub. And as for the women…hey, hey, party on.»more»
Around here a lot of hotel bars are turning Irish. It seems you can pull in more drinkers by calling your bar Molly O'Somebody's Irish Pub and laying on draught Guinness and fake timber beams. This piece from Dublin makes me curious; what does a themed bar look like when it's in Ireland?:»more»
The BBC’s E-cyclopedia: the words behind the headlines explains a new British use of pebbledash as a term indicating suburbia. Pebbledash people is spin doctor's shorthand for a social group.
Thought to be Tories' paradigm target voter, numbering 2.5 million in 178 target seats. Derives from “pebbledash subtopia”, one of 52 postcode categories employed by market research specialists Experian. Average household income: £25,000; likely to read Daily Mail; not very neighbourly; keen on DIY.»more»
Country log caskets
Another thing you didn’t know you needed — a coffin made in the form of a log cabin. Choose the Pioneer (US$3,995, with saddle-notch corners and full leather lining), the Rancher, the Trails End, or the Countryside ($2,295).
Something you didn’t know you needed. A supplier of Japanese socks glue. Explanation:
Japanese high school girls wear outrageously oversized socks called ‘loose socks.’ How do they keep their socks from falling down? You guessed it — they use ‘socks glue.’ Here’s some authentic socks glue for you, straight from Japan.
Feline reactions to bearded men
A scientific study has some surprising findings.
An ugly quilt is a sleeping bag that’s been made from scraps, old clothes, bedspreads, and any material you can spare. It is an inexpensive way to make a difference in a homeless person’s life. [Quote from the ugly quilts website].
Sumo aprons in triplicate
See this photo essay on the retirement ceremony for Akebono, the Japanese sumo champion. Akebono was born in Hawaii of Irish-Hawaiian and Cuban-Hawaiian parents. He was the biggest yokozuma (203cm, 233kg), and the first foreigner to gain this rank. The emotional climax of the ceremony was the cutting of the champ’s topnot, involving 300 VIPs. Read closely to discover why yokozumas have aprons in sets of three.
Brand new BMW for $495
That’s US dollars, about $1,000 Australian. A bargain? Well no, it’s not a car, just a skate board called the Street Carver. Ask Santa, he just might… Sure, and pigs might fly.
World AIDS Day 2001
I’m prompted by the Link and think campaign to mention William Yang’s wonderful performance piece, Sadness. In this show he stands in front of the audience telling his story and working a set of slide projectors. With his quiet voice, his deadpan photographs, the varied pace of the story and the way he engages us with it, this goes way beyond the old living room slide show.»more»