Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Growing Up on a Farm | Herbert Read

From the autobiography of British art theorist Sir Herbert Read, The Contrary Experience. New York: Horizon Press, 1963, pp. 22-23—

But the scenes [of growing up on a farm] that I have described, and many others of the same nature, such as the searing of horses' tails, the killing of poultry, the birth of cattle, even the lewdness of a half-witted laborer, were witnessed by us children with complete passivity—just as I have seen children of the same age watching a bullfight in Spain quite unmoved by its horrors. Pity, and even terror are emotions which develop when we are no longer innocent, and the sentimental adult who induces such emotions in the child is probably breaking through defenses which nature has wisely put round the tender mind. The child even has a natural craving for horrors. He survives just because he is without sentiment, for only in this way can his green heart harden sufficiently to withstand the wounds that wait for it.

Water Over the Dame

Anon, The Olio [1796] as quoted in Louis Kronenberger, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. New York: Viking, 1972, p. 238—

One day Lady Onslow, being desirious of knowing the most remarkable planets and constellations, requested Mr. Harvest, on a fine starlight night, to point them out to her, which he undertook to do; but in the midst of his lecture, having occasion to make water, thought that need not interrupt it, and accordingly directing that operation with one hand, went on in his explanation, pointing out the constellations with the other.

Cutting Meat with Scissors | Context

German satirist G.C. Lichtenberg, as quoted in W.H. Auden, A Certain World (New York: Viking Press, 1970), pp. 136-137—

How much depends upon the way things are presented in this world can be seen from the very fact that coffee drunk out of wine glasses is really miserable stuff, as is meat cut at the table with a pair of scissors. Worst of all, as I once actually saw, is butter spread on a piece of bread with an old but very clean razor.

Inattentional Blindness | Thoreau

From Henry Petroski, The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance. New York: Knopf, 1989, pp. 3-4—

Henry David Thoreau seemed to think of everything when he made a list of essential supplies for a twelve-day excursion into the Maine woods. He included pins, needles, and thread among the items to be carried in an India-rubber knapsack, and he even gave the dimensions of an ample tent: "six by seven feet, and four feet high in the middle, will do." He wanted to be doubly sure to be able to start a fire and to wash up, and so he listed: "matches (some also in a small vial in the waist-coat pocket); soap, two pieces." He specified the number of old newspapers (three or four, presumably to be used for cleaning chores), the length of strong cord (twenty feet), the size of his blanket (seven feet long), and the amount of "soft hardbread" (twenty-eight pounds!)…
But there is one object that Thoreau neglected to mention, one that he most certainly carried himself. For without this object Thoreau could not have sketched either the fleeting fauna he would not shoot or the larger flora he could not uproot. Without it he could not label his blotting paper pressing leaves or his insect boxes holding beetles; without it he could not record the measurements he made; without it he could not write home on the paper he brought; without it he could not make his list. [He had forgotten to mention the pencil that enabled him to make the list.]

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Biblical Printing Errors | Bloopers

The following is adapted from the article "Bible, specially named editions" in Benet's Reader's Encyclopedia. Third Edition. (New York: Harper and Row, 1987)—

In the so-called Wicked Bible, printed in London by Baker and Lucas in 1632, the word not was omitted from the seventh commandment, to make it "Thou shalt commit adultery."
Genesis 24:61, which is supposed to read "Rebecca arose, and her damsels," was mistakenly printed as "Rebecca arose, and her camels" in an edition known as Rebecca's Camels Bible, printed in 1823.
Published in 1702, the Printers' Bible contained an error in Psalms 119:161 in which the word printers was substituted for princes, so that King David was said to complain that "printers have persecuted me without a cause."
In the Murderers' Bible, published in 1801, the word murmurers was misprinted as murderers in Jude 16, resulting in a verse that reads "These are murderers, complainers, walking after their own lusts..."
The To Remain Bible refers to a flawed edition, published at Cambridge in 1805, in which Galatians 4:29 was mistakenly printed as "he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the spirit to remain, even so it is now." The words to remain are erroneous. While checking the galleys, a proofreader questioned if there should be a comma after the word spirit. The editor responded by penciling "to remain" in the margin, which was then mistakenly typeset.

Shotgun Seminars at Princeton

From Freeman Dyson, Infinite in all Directions (New York: Harper and Row, 1988)— 

At our institute in Princeton we sometimes organize meetings which are announced as Shotgun Seminars. A Shotgun Seminar is a talk given by an Institute member to a volunteer audience. The subject of the talk is announced a week in advance, but the name of the speaker is not. Before the talk begins, the names of all people in the room are written on scraps of paper, the scraps of paper are put into a box, the box is ceremoniously shaken and one name is picked out at random. The name picked out is the name of the speaker. The unbreakable rule of the seminar is that nobody whose name is not in the box may listen to the talk. This rule ensures that everybody does the necessary homework. The audience is ready to argue and contradict whenever the speaker flounders. Anybody who has not given serious thought to the subject of the seminar had better not come.

The Evils of Hell Juice

From Bruce Siberts, in Walker D. Wyman, ed., Nothing But Prairie and Sky: Life on the Dakota Range in the Early Days (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954), pp. 5-6—

Our family were strict Methodists, attended church regular, and none of them ever got drunk, chewed or smoked tobacco, or used bad language. Only Uncle Ed, who bought cattle and hogs for the Chicago market, was different. He chewed tobacco, was suspected of drinking beer once, and had the reputation of seeing a show in Chicago called The Black Crook, in which women wore tights. As Uncle Ed and Mr. Crum, a neighbor, were the only Methodists who used tobacco, except on the sly, it was urged that they be expelled from the church. But in looking over the records, it was learned that they were the best in paying money for the support of the church so they were allowed to remain in good standing. However, the minister preached a good sermon on the evils of tobacco, saying, "There you sit with hell juice running out of your mouths," and on in that line for two hours. Uncle Ed said that the preacher could kiss his foot and go to hell. Only he didn't say foot.

Mail Art | Collage

Roy R. Behrens © Mail Art Collage (1980)

Back in the pre-computer days in the 1970s and 80s, it was common to complete a letter by making a collage on the envelope, using rubber stamps, labels, transfer type, hand-colored image fragments, or whatever. We mailed the best ones to ourselves, in the hope that the post office workers would contribute to it through multiple cancellations.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Joseph Langland | Something Well Said

From a Joseph Langland's essay on "Poetry! What in the World are You Saying?"—

One is drawn to poetry not nearly so much because someone thinks he has something important to say as that he thinks he can say something well. And when something is well said, it is more important than the same idea less well said. All those who care for civilization know the truth of this.

William H. Gass | Music of Prose

This astonishing passage is from "The Music of Prose" in William H. Gass, Finding a Form (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1997)—

For prose [like music] has a pace; it is dotted with stops and pauses, frequent rests, inflections rise and fall like a low range of hills; certain tones are prolonged; there are patterns of stress and harmonious measures; there is a proper method of pronunciation, even if it is rarely observed; alliteration will trouble the tongue, consonance ease its sound out, so that any mouth making that music will feel its performance even to the back of the teeth and to the glottal's stop; mellifluousness is not impossible, and harshness is easy; drum roll and clangor can be confidently called for—lisp, slur, and growl; so there will be a syllabic beat in imitation of the heart, while rhyme will recall a word we passed perhaps too indifferently; vowels will open and consonants close like blooming plants; repetitive schemes will act as refrains, and there will be phrases—little motifs—to return to, like the tonic; clauses will be balanced by other clauses the way a waiter carries trays; parallel lines will nevertheless meet in their common subject; clots of concepts will dissolve and then recombine, so we shall find endless variations on the same theme; a central idea, along with its many modifications, like soloist and chorus, will take their turns until, suddenly, all sing at once the same sound.