The age of the Baroque (1600-1750) was the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation which had happened in the century before.
The Reformation was a hard, biting, burning, purifying time of extreme measures, necessary, salutary in some aspects, but very difficult to live through.
The Reformationists burned books and monasteries and smashed statues and other “idolatrous” objects, scraping all of the art, ornamentation, fun and frivolity out of their religion.
In response to this dour, severe, doctrinal era, the Church embarked on a program of restoration, a new way of living that became known as the Counter Reformation.
The purpose of the Counter Reformation was aimed at remedying some of the abuses challenged by the Protestants earlier in the 16th century.
The Baroque which grew out of the Counter Reformation was an age of exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance and music.
The style began around 1600 in Rome and spread to most of Europe.
Concilium Tridentinum, the Council of Trent, who met in Trento, Italy, between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods. was an embodiment of the ideals of the Counter Reformation and was considered to be one of the Church’s most important councils.
Trento was then the capital of the Prince Bishopric of Trent of the Holy Roman Empire.
The popularity and success of the Baroque style was initiated by the Catholic Church which had decided at the Council of Trent, in response to the arid, purifying doctines of the Reformation, that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement straight into the hearts of the common people.
The aristocracy cooperated with this goal because they saw the dramatic style of Baroque architecture and art as a means of impressing visitors and expressing triumphant power and control. Tiziano (Titian) did this portrait of Pope Paul III (Paulus PP III), who was born Alessandro Farnese.
Baroque palaces are built around an entrance of courts, grand staircases and reception rooms of increasing opulence.
The term baroque, by the way, comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning misshapen pearl. These misshapen pearls are beautifully dramatic in their irregularity.
These are still called baroque pearls today. The era is named for the pearl and not the other way round.
In the Baroque period, the Roman Church realized the power that art could have to inspire and, therefore, she became preoccupied with extravagance and display. There was a stagey, theatrical quality to the works in the Baroque which were often highly emotional and done in mixed media. Much Baroque sculpture added extra-sculptural elements, concealed lighting, or water fountains, or fused sculpture and architecture to create a transformative experience for the viewer.
The intent was to overwhelm viewers, catch their attention, and make them want to see more. This is Ludovica by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the greatest sculptors of all time, whose talents were perfectly suited to the Baroque.
Entering a Baroque church where visual space, music and ceremony were combined inspired the loyalty of congregations.
The bigger and more beautiful the space, the more people wanted to enter it.
Complex geometry, curving and intricate stairway arrangements and large-scale sculptural ornamentation offered a sense of movement and mystery within the Baroque palace of worship.
It was the reverence for the church that provided funding for more and more building projects which, in turn, brought even more worshipers into the city –as many as five times the permanent population during a Holy Year.
With this boom in tourism, a continuing job opportunity arose for the citizens of Rome.
The construction industry soon became the largest employer in the city.
Music filled these churches. The term “baroque” was, in fact, first applied to music. It was a perjorative term at first, as most labels are. An anonymous writer in the Mercure de France (May 1734) noted that the opera of Jean-Philippe Rameau, Hippolyte et Aricie, was “du barocque,” was endless dissonance, constantly changing in key and meter, and was a pastiche of every compositional device. You know? What people always say about new music.
One hundred and fifty years, from 1600 to 1750, our Baroque period, is a long time in the history of music, however, and there has been much difficulty about giving the same label to Monteverdi’s music and to Händel’s or to Henry Purcell’s.
The Church, in her zeal to appeal to the common people, wanted music that was simpler in texture than the polyphony of the Renaissance, so there was a need for a melody and accompaniment instead. The music of the Baroque, ornamented though it be, is basically a melody with chords supporting that melody.
The Florentine Camerata was a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals in late Renaissance Florence who gathered under the patronage of Count Giovanni de’Bardi to discuss the arts, especially music and drama.
Their ideal was a classical musical drama that valued discourse and oration, and they deplored their contemporaries’ use of polyphony and instrumental music, discussing such ancient Greek music devices as monody, which consisted of a solo singing accompanied by a kithara.
The working out of this ideal, including Jacopo Peri’s Dafne (1597), considered to be the first opera, inspired Baroque music.
Ironic that a simple ideal of singing to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument spurred the growth of such a baroque form as opera.
Jacopo Peri’s L’Euridice was performed as part of the Marie de’Medici and Henri IV wedding celebrations in 1600.
Louis XIV personified the age of absolutism (L’état, c’est moi.) and his style of palace and manners became the model for the rest of Europe. The realities of rising church and state patronage created the demand for organized public music such as chamber music.
There was a gradual institutionalization of forms and norms, particularly in opera. As with literature, the printing press and trade created an expanded international audience for music.
The middle Baroque period in Italy saw the emergence of the cantata, oratorio, and opera during the 1630s, the bel canto style, one of the most important contributions to the development of Baroque, which was a new concept of melody and harmony that elevated the status of the music to one of equality with the words.
The florid, coloratura monody of the early Baroque gave way to a simpler, more polished melodic style, usually in a ternary rhythm.
These melodies were built from short ideas often based on stylized dance patterns drawn from the sarabande or the courante, the gigue, the pavane.
This harmonic simplification ushered in the recitative and the aria. The most important innovators of this style were the Romans Luigi Rossi and Giacomo Carissimi, who were primarily composers of cantatas and oratorios.
Jean-Baptiste Lully (Giovanni Battista Lulli) was a court composer, born in Firenze (Florence), to a family of millers. He used to say that a Franciscan friar gave him his first music lessons and taught him guitar. He also learned to play the violin.
In 1646, dressed as harlequin during Mardi Gras and amusing bystanders with his clowning and his violin, the boy attracted the attention of Roger de Lorraine, chevalier de Guise, who was returning to France and was looking for someone to converse in Italian with his niece, Mademoiselle de Montpensier. Guise took the boy to Paris, where the fourteen year-old entered Mademoiselle’s service and from 1647 to 1652 he served as her “chamber boy” (garçon de chambre).
Lully’s talents as a guitarist, violinist, and dancer quickly won him the nicknames “Baptiste“, and “le grand baladin” (great street-artist).
He did indeed grow into a great artist, and he collaborated with Molière on a series of comédie-ballets, and used this success to become the sole composer of operas for the king.
Lully knew what le roi Louis wanted, which explains his rapid shift to church music when the mood at court became more devout. His thirteen completed lyric tragedies are based on libretti that focus on the conflicts between the public and private life of the monarch.
Lully’s near contemporary, Arcangelo Correlli, improved musical technique by insisting on better intonation. The style of execution introduced by Corelli and preserved by his pupils was of vital importance for the development of violin playing. It has been said that the paths of all of the famous violinist-composers of 18th and 19th centuries Italy led to Arcangelo Corelli who was their “iconic point of reference” and he created a beautiful flow of melody in purely instrumental music, such as the concerto grosso.
Lully was the man at court, but Corelli published widely and had his music performed all over Europe.
The concerto grosso is built on strong contrasts— sections alternate between those played by the full orchestra, and those played by a smaller group.
There were sharp jumps between loud and soft. Fast sections and slow sections were juxtaposed against each other.
Antonio Vivaldi studied with Corelli and later composed hundreds of works based on Corelli’s trio sonatas and concerti.
Meanwhile in England, Henry Purcell produced a profusion of music and was deservedly popular in his lifetime. Purcell was a fluid composer, able to shift from simple anthems and useful music such as marches, to grandly scored vocal music and music for the stage. He was very prolific and was also one of the first great keyboard composers, whose work still has influence and presence. I played many of his pieces on the guitar and still love them. When I was 18, I used to go to a place called The Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach on Sunday nights and listen to a small ensemble conducted by Donald Pippin play Purcell’s music.
Dietrich Buxtehude was not a creature of court but he a was church musician, holding the posts of organist and Werkmeister at the Marienkirche at Lübeck. He organized and directed a concert series known as the Abendmusiken, which included performances of sacred dramatic works regarded by his contemporaries as the equivalent of operas.
Johann Sebastian Bach was, of course, the towering figure of Baroque music. During his life, he was better known as a teacher, administrator and performer than composer, being less famous than either Handel or Georg Philipp Telemann.
In 1723 Bach settled at the post he was associated with for virtually the rest of his life: cantor and director of music for Leipzig. His varied experience allowed him to become the town’s leader of music both secular and sacred, teacher of its musicians.
Bach composed a church cantata for every Sunday and holiday of the year. He also created the St. John Passion, the St. Matthew passion, the Christmas Oratorio and the Mass in B minor, works that seem to be divine.
Bach expanded the depths and the outer limits of the Baroque homophonic and polyphonic forms. He used every contrapuntal device possible and every acceptable means of creating webs of harmony with the chorale. His fugues, preludes and toccatas for organ, and the baroque concerto forms, have become fundamental in both performance and theoretical technique. He summed it all up and brought it forward.
These are all composers whose music I was playing in various recorder ensembles at the time that we began Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Georg Philipp Telemann was a particular favorite. He was almost completely self taught and he had backed into a career in music.
In complete contradistinction to Bach, Telemann’s personal life was always troubled: his first wife died only a few months after their marriage, and his second wife had extramarital affairs and accumulated a large gambling debt before leaving him.
Telemann was one of the most prolific composers in history and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers. He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles. Like Händel, Telemann knew everybody and did everything. Bach was his friend, but so was everyone.
Have you ever looked at a painting or a sculpture from before the age of photography and wondered if the subject really looked like that? One way to verify such a question is to look at a depiction of a person by two different artists. Here is Giuliano Finelli’s portrait of Cardinal Scipione Borghese.
And here is Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s depiction of the same man. Uncannily similar, aren’t they? The bust above (Finelli’s) seems to depict a man who is more tired. His gaze is below eye level. Bernini’s portrait is more jaunty. Even the cardinal’s hat is at attention.
Finelli had worked in Bernini’s studio.
He was the “detail man,” perhaps more fascinated with dress and ornamentation than his mentor.
Bernini’s virtuosity in carving marble and his ability to create figures that combine the physical and the spiritual make him one of the most important figures in the history of sculpture.
The Protestant Reformation (16th century) brought an almost total stop to religious sculpture in much of Northern Europe. It was literally an iconoclastic age. Statues were smashed and church decorations were pulled apart. Fundamentalism run rampant, as we see in our own time.
Partly in direct reaction to this iconoclasm, sculpture was deemed as important in the Baroque as it was in the late Middle Ages. In the 18th century much sculpture continued on Baroque lines. The Fontana di Trevi was only completed in 1762 from a design by Bernini (1598–1680). His architecture, sculpture and fountains are examples of the highly charged characteristics of Baroque style. The sculpture was cut deep in the Baroque to give a dramatic light and shadow effect.
Groups of figures spiraled around an empty central vortex, or reached outwards into the surrounding space.
There were often multiple ideal viewing angles, and a general continuation of the Renaissance move away from the relief to sculpture created in the round, and designed to be placed in the middle of a large space.
Even when he was actually doing a relief, Bernini made his subject virtually jump out of the frame. Notice how deeply the cuts are made in the piece, which gives an illusion of depth and heightens the emotion. The folds in the clothing are harmonized and have a personality of their own.
Artists saw themselves as in the classical tradition, but admired the more “vulgar” Hellenistic and later Roman sculpture, rather than the more stately “Classical” styles.
The Baroque period had a distinctly popular aspect. The eyelashes in this sculpture appear to be glued on. Mixed media again.
Baroque painting is often identified with Absolutism, the Counter Reformation and the Catholic Revival, but it only began that way. The existence of important Baroque art and architecture in non-absolutist and Protestant states throughout Western Europe underscores its widespread popularity.
Baroque artists chose the most dramatic point, the moment when the action was occurring. In the Renaissance, Michelangelo shows his David thoughtful and composed before battle with Goliath, but Bernini’s David is caught in the act of hurling the stone at the giant.
Baroque art was meant to evoke drama, emotion and passion instead of the calm rationality that had been prized during the Renaissance.
Baroque painters understood what Robert Crumb calls “the power of black.” Caravaggio painted directly from life and dramatically lit his figures against a dark background. We used to call this “nightclub lighting.” Here is Caravaggio’s depiction of the calling of Matthew, who was a tax collector, to come and follow Jesus.
And here is Hendrik Terbrugghen’s painting of the same subject.
Artemisia Gentilleschi’s beautiful paint it black version of Judith and Holofernes.
Rembrandt, who perhaps best caught the emotions of the soul as they play out on the face, also used the power of black, the chiaroscuro, in his work.
Sacred and Profane Love by Giovanni Baglione is a truly remarkable painting, isn’t it? I’m going to copy this one of these days.
The Council of Trent (Concilium Tridentinum 1545–63), in which the Roman Catholic Church answered many questions of internal reform raised by both Protestants and by those who had remained inside the Church, addressed the representational arts in a short and somewhat oblique passage in its decrees and demanded that painting and sculpture in church contexts should depict their subjects clearly and powerfully.
This return toward to a populist conception of the function of ecclesiastical art drove the innovations of Caravaggio and the Carracci brothers, all of whom were working (and competing for commissions) in Rome around 1600, although unlike the Carracci, Caravaggio was criticised for lack of decorum in his work.
Annibale, Ludovico and Agostino Carracci.
Significantly, in the Protestant countries, genres like still life, landscape and paintings of everyday life were more important. There wasn’t a lot of work for religious painters.
I love this virtuoso style of painting used in the depiction of ordinary life.
This is a Spanish version of everyday life, Diego Velázquez’ Old Woman Frying Eggs.
Jan Lievens who reminds me of Frans Hals.
And Hals’ portrait of Willem Heythuijsen (1634).
Peter Paul Rubens’ almost lubricious painting of a horse.
Nicolas Poussin was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style, although he spent most of his working life in Rome. His work is characterized by clarity, logic, and order. Poussin likes line more than color.
Salvator Rosa is off in some beautiful mystic place by himself. Silence is better than talk, says his placard.
Caspar Netscher, a Dutch artist, knows how to paint a pretty woman.
And two “surrealist” works, this one by Rembrandt van Rijn.
And this by Jan Steen, The World Turned Upside Down.
On 1 January 1660, Samuel Pepys began to keep a diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. The women he pursued, his friends and his dealings are all laid out. His diary reveals his jealousies, insecurities, trivial concerns, and his fractious relationship with his wife. It is an important account of London in the 1660s and probably the best diary in the English language. The Baroque time in England is known as the Restoration because of the reinstatement of King Charles II to the throne, so I am not completely sure that any of these people would be considered “Baroque,” even though their lifespans fall within the period 1600 – 1750.
Two of my favorite people ever, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, were born in the Baroque era, and much of Boswell’s work is Baroque and beyond. Many of the episodes he narrates are as scary, outré, melodramatic, passionate and emotional as any Baroque painting or sculpture, only they are real life and told in a style that is as precise and vivid as Bernini’s or Bach’s.
Boswell’s journals are amazing, real and in three dimension. He puts you there. His Life of Samuel Johnson is the greatest biography in English and maybe in any language. I read it over and over and always find something new and worthwhile in it.
Virginia Woolf called Fanny Burney “the mother of English fiction,” and is she ever. She wrote four novels that are as good or better than anyone else’s and her narration of her mastectomy is probably more Baroque than anything you would want to read. It is a searing document, honest and terrifying. Madame d’Arblay, as she was known in later life, came from a noted family of musicians and her observations on music are most interesting.
Restoration literature includes both Paradise Lost and the Earl of Rochester’s Sodom, the high spirited sexual comedy of The Country Wife and the moral wisdom of Pilgrim’s Progress, so this time in England doesn’t always fit well with the Baroque period on the Continent.
John Locke wrote his Two Treatises on Government at this time which also saw the founding of the Royal Society and the chemstry, the experiments and holy meditations of Robert Boyle.
John Dryden, who practically invented literary criticism, is seen as dominating the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. Not incidentally, newspapers and coffeehouses came into being at this time.
The official break in literary culture caused by censorship and radically moralist standards under that savage group of fundamentalists, Cromwell’s Puritans, created a gap in literary tradition, allowing a seemingly fresh start for all forms of literature after the Restoration.
During the Interregnum, the royalist forces attached to the court of Charles I went into exile with the twenty-year-old Charles II, and saw for themselves the Baroque arts of continental Europe.
Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin, arrived at the court of Charles II, in September of 1675, upon his invitation. She was well known as a patron of literature and the fine arts.
Nell Gwynne, “pretty, witty Nell,” as Samuel Pepys called her, had a comedic talent and a shrewd understanding of her time. Pepys puts these words in Nell’s mouth: ” ‘I was but one man’s whore, though I was brought up in a bawdy-house to fill strong waters to the guests; and you are a whore to three or four, though a Presbyter’s praying daughter!’ which was very pretty.”
Aphra Behn was not only the first professional female novelist, but she may be among the first professional novelists of either sex in England. Behn’s most famous novel was Oroonoko in 1688. This was a biography of an entirely fictional African king who had been enslaved in Suriname, where Behn had actually lived. She explores slavery and gender in a racy way. Vita Sackville-West called Behn “an inhabitant of Grub Street with the best of them.”
The most famous plays of the early Restoration period are the unsentimental or “hard” comedies of Dryden, William Wycherley, and George Etherege, which celebrate an aristocratic lifestyle of unremitting sexual intrigue and conquest.
The term Augustan literature derives from authors of the 1720s and 1730s, who responded to a term that George I used for himself.
While George I meant the title to reflect his might, the literary people instead saw in the term a reflection of Rome’s transition from rough and ready literature to the highly political and highly polished literature during the time of Caesar Augustus, Imperator Caesar Divi F. Augustus (Caius Octavius).
Because of the aptness of such a metaphore, the period from 1689 – 1750 was called “the Augustan Age” by critics throughout the 18th century, including Voltaire and Oliver Goldsmith, who “wrote like an angel, but talked like Poor Poll,” in the words of Samuel Johnson.
This was the time when the English novel developed into a major art form. Daniel Defoe, who had been a journalist writing criminal lives for the press, began to write fictional criminal lives in books like Roxana and Moll Flanders.
Defoe also wrote a fictional treatment of the travels of Alexander Selkirk called Robinson Crusoe (1719).
Jonathan Swift’s prose style is unmannered and direct, with a clarity that few contemporaries matched. He was a profound skeptic about the modern world, but he was similarly profoundly distrustful of nostalgia. He saw in history a record of lies and vanity, and he saw in the present a madness of vanity and lies. I read Gulliver’s Travels when I was ten and was amazed at Swift’s prose style. There is such a sensible precision to it that is perfect for making the unreal real as he did in that book.
Swift believed that Christian values were essential, but these values had to be muscular and assertive and developed by constant rejection of smooth talking marketers and bogus preachers. In A Tale of A Tub, Swift detailed his skeptical analysis of the claims of the modern world.
After his “exile” to Ireland, Swift reluctantly began defending the Irish people from the predations of English colonialism. A Modest Proposal and The Drapier Letters actually provoked riots and arrests. Swift, who otherwise had no love for Irish Catholics was outraged by the English abuses and barbarity he saw around him.
An effect of the Licensing Act was to cause more than one aspiring playwright to switch over to writing novels. Henry Fielding began to write prose satire and novels after his plays could not pass the censors.
The pious Samuel Richardson had produced a novel intended to counter the deleterious effects of the new novel in his Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740). Henry Fielding attacked the absurdity of Richardson’s book with two of his own works, Joseph Andrews and Shamela, and then countered Richardson’s Clarissa with Tom Jones.
Laurence Sterne attempted a Swiftian novel, Tristram Shandy, which has always eluded me somehow, although I can see/feel that it is a very original work, much more adventurous and creative than Swift, but never really my cup of tea. I took it as a cock and bull story.
Meanwhile, across the Channel and to the south, a Spanish Jesuit, Baltasar Gracián y Morales, S.J. (January 8, 1601 – December 6, 1658) was the most representative writer of the Spanish Baroque literary style known as Conceptismo, of which he was the most important theoretician. His Agudeza y arte de ingenio (Wit and the Art of Inventiveness) is a poetic rendering of the conceptist style.
Gracián is now best known for the Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia, which was written in 1637.
The book is a collection of 300 maxims (aforísmos), each with a commentary, on various topics giving advice and guidance on how to live fully, advance socially, and be a better person.
A bad manner spoils everything, even reason and justice: a good one supplies everything, gilds a No, sweetens a truth, and adds a touch of beauty to old age itself.
The wise does at once what the fool does at last.
Beauty and folly are generally companions.
The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good.
Be content to act and leave the talking to others.
Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem. Most things are judged by their jackets.
Friendship multiplies the good in life and divides the evil.
After the Renaissance which was the classical period of restraint and grace, the Baroque was twisted, emotional and extreme. The Baroque was the Hellenistic period of our time.
After the Baroque came a short period of return to the classical ideal, Neoclassicism, which was a mostly French and rather short lived pastiche of Renaissance values which evolved into the Academic style of the 19th century.
After that, le déluge: impressionism, surrealism, Expressionism, the 20th century, Abstract Art, Pop Art.
Who reads, rules.
Aloft and Alow
I’m happy to be alive, I’m happy to be who I am.
We just know inside that we’re queens. And these are the crowns we wear.
These flutes are about seven thousand years old. The holes are in the same place where they are on woodwinds today.
The tallest building in the world is now in Dubai, the biggest factory in the world is in China, the largest oil refinery is in India, the largest investment fund in the world is in Abu Dhabi, the largest Ferris wheel in the world is in Singapore.
One of my favorite times in life is after we’ve played the gig and we are driving home, tired and happy and contented. Soft conversation and companionship.
I’ve been imitated so well I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.
It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees, but neither one is a really a good time.
To read too many books is harmful? Typical of something Mao Zedong would say.
You can have everything you want in life if you just help other people get what they want.
Two people are inside us, the artist and the technician. You’re born an artist and then you have to grow the technician.
I cannot tell you how happy and in love with everything I am.
I play music with good people so I can be inspired and so that I can inspire them.
So, are you praying to the Jewish Jesus, the baby Jesus in golden fleece diapers, the bilingual Mexican Jesús, the grown up Jesus or the ninja Jesus?
When virtue and modesty enlighten her charms, the luster of a beautiful woman is brighter than the stars of heaven, and the influence of her power it is in vain to resist. Akhenaton
God said to the angels, “I am going to create a beautiful land watered by a silvery river, with trees full of delicious dates, and I shall call this land Egypt. ” And the angels said, “Lord, don’t you think this is a little unfair to the rest of the world?” And God said, “Just wait till you see whom I am giving them for neighbors.”
If paper beats rock, rock beats scissors and scissors beats paper, what beats everyone? A redhead.
You feel touched and honored and alive when you give to someone.
Learning is exciting and it keeps you young.
Happiness doesn’t come from applause. Happiness comes from believing that you have done something good and meaningful.
Why did the blonde smile in a lightning storm? Because she knew that god was taking her photograph.
Are you not thinking what I’m not thinking?
Humility may be the mother of all the other virtues.
Or is it courage? Is courage the mother of all virtues? Hard to say. What do you think?
Or gratitude? Is gratitude the mother of all virtues?
You have to be very courageous sometimes to have a positive attitude, because many foolish people assume that anyone with a positive attitude is naïve, uneducated, stupid, and there are a lot of foolish people, many of them rich and powerful.
I am comfortable telling people what my opinions are, but I have absolutely no need to convert them. À chacun son goût. I hope I am quoting that correctly. De gustibus non disputandum. To each his own. Suum cuique. Whatever works for you.
I’ve never felt that I needed a lot of attention, but, then, I’ve never been to a psychiatrist either, so what do I know?
Better to be wise than smart.
You have to keep on living, even if it kills you.
If we all followed the Book of Leviticus, half the people in the United States would be executed tomorrow.
If there were a god, what would she think about the phrase, “holy war in the holy land?”
Doctor, I’ve been bitten on the leg by a werewolf! Did you put anything on it? No, he seemed to like it as it was.
Geek alert: Calculus and alcohol don’t mix. Don’t drink and derive.
Why did the tomato blush? She saw the salad dressing.
How’s your millinery business going? Oh, it’s sew, sew. Berthe Morissot.
Did you hear about my favorite actress who just severed all her connections? With her knife? No, Witherspoon.
They were going to let her into Harvard, but she spelled Yale with a Six.
Bachelors have consciences. Married men have wives. Samuel Johnson
Why does Snoop Doggy carry an umbrella? Fo’drizzle.
Hey… are you Jamaican? Because, JAMAICAN me crazy!
I was always too mature for my age – and not very happy. I had no young friends. I wish I could go back to those days. If I could only live it all again, how I would play and enjoy the other girls. What a fool I was. Maria Callas
Her surname is Shure. She said, “Do you think people know it?” and I said, “Are you kidding? To musicians it’s like Coca-Cola or Frigidaire or Kleenex. The thing you have to worry about is that it will become so generic that you will lose the copyright.”
Shurely there must be things that you can do with a voice other than stand in front of a microphone and sing.
Kate Russo in Ko Samui, Thailand, playing some standards on the piano.
Cat says, “I would like a Bombay…. Martini,” and the bartender says, “Why the long pause?” and she says, “Oh, I don’t know, I’m just built that way.”
Better be wronged than wrong, better be cheated than cheat.
In my family tree, depending on which day it is, I’m either the bark or the sap.
We can’t add days to our lives, but we can add life to our days.
The more corrupt the country, the more laws it will have.
What do guitar players and a terrorists have in common? They both destroy bridges.
I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results. J.S. Bach
It’s far easier to sing to 250,000 people than it is to sing to 25.
When I sing, I feel like when you’re first in love. It’s more than sex. It’s that point two people can get to they call love, when you really touch someone for the first time, but it’s gigantic, multiplied by the whole audience. I feel chills.
Be quick to pardon, quick to forgive, offer your hand as long as you live.
Being happy at home is the best happiness.
True friends, like Brutus, will stab you in the front.
We were in Glenfarg, eastern Scotland, between Edinburgh and Perth, in 2006 with our family Carla Piliwale, Edd Hart, Barbara Joy Langer, Barry Melton, Jerry Donohue… that was a good time.
All my life I have read the books I wanted to read, with very little direction and purpose. It has worked for me, but I don’t know that I would recommend it to anyone else.
You will never meet a rich person who tries to convince you that having a lot of money will make your life easier.
People in general are kind but not really just.
Everyday meet someone new, a new idea, a new beginning, a new direction.
Self confidence and ability usually go together.
To spend life with a beautiful, happy woman, is anything better?
Women naturally have so much power that for a long time every law and custom sought to subjugate them. In fact, this is still the case, but it’s never going to work, I’ll tell you that right now.
Have you ever walked into a magnificent library and thought, “Oh, my god, I will never read a fraction of these books.” It’s rather like standing on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
Sarah with her daughter Adyson in the wilds of Florida.
If a great tragedy happens to you, it might be worth considering how much a greater tragedy you have escaped.
Let each be happy in her own way, for what better way is there?
When you choose to be a musician, an actor, a poet, you are going against the odds. As Ruth Gordon said, Success is a refusal to face facts.
Somehow we were given life. Now it is up to us to live life well.
We all have to die. Is that a tragedy? Is it a comedy? It’s OK with me. Living forever could be, well, a little repetitious, even for the most creative mind.
I always have that secret hope that somehow I am not completely ridiculous in the eyes of women.
Don’t stand back and think how scary it is. Grab the bull by the horns, not the tail.
How you treat those who are “less” than you… animals, children, the homeless, is the measure of your character.
Nothing is so good to see as the happiness of one’s wife.
When you lie in bed at night and you think of all those things from so long ago, things that you wish you could call back and improve, the chance is now. Be a better person now and pay it back. Pay it back ever so slowly. If you live long enough, maybe you can pay it back enough and forgive yourself.
Life is a big Otis Elevator. Some are going up, some are going down, some just get on to take a ride and have a look around.
If you really love what someone else has done, say so, and then you join in the beauty of it.
Music is the art of mixing pleasure with truth.
Pass quickly through your sadness. Don’t give it any power.
Don’t think too much about a new project. Begin it. Do it.
Men are loud and full of bluster. Women take care of life and give it luster.
There is no such thing as a wrong note.
Women always know where things are… unless we’re talking about car keys.
Being poor is no disgrace, but it is a very inconvenient place.
A good marriage is as much about friendship as it is about love.
If you really want to remember something, try to forget it.
If you believe that people are generally kind and honest, then you are probably kind and honest.
Life is short. Read the best books you can find. Leave the trashy ones far behind.
Doing what you love is labor without weariness.
You can never be great by imitating. The best you can do is get very close to your model but you will never be better than your model by imitating.
Perhaps better to imitate many models and pull together a style of your own.
I hate zoos for the same reason that I hate jails.
If you lie to someone, you hurt yourself more than you do the person who hears the lie.
If you really want to remember something, pay attention to it, think about it, note all of its peculiarities. Sing it.
Another good measure of a person is what she would do if she knew she were never going to get caught.
Do your utmost to find your way into a world of beauty.
If you go into politics you must learn the art of entering a room and knowing who is for you and who is against you. Great way to live, right?
I watch Fox News the way I would watch The Three Stooges or some buffoon program like The Gong Show. How ridiculous are they going to be this time? In twenty years, mark my words, if they run this stuff on TV it is going to look far more ridiculous than the most corny aspects of, say, I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners. But just as entertaining.
Immortality… it just seems to go on forever.
There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.
I don’t like to go to the movies to see violence or some kind of spy thing with all kinds of information you have to assimilate to understand the plot. First of all, it’s almost always the kind of information you want nothing to do with in your real life. Shady, murky, power without purpose, might without meaning, machinelike and without soul.
I want a film that is going to entertain me, yes, but I also want that film to make me a better person.
The future comes quickly, and, before you know it, it’s the past.
Are you reading this in the bedroom?
Passionate love? When you figure out how to make that last, let me know. Otherwise, it’s a spiritual love, work, companionship, respect for the other, kindness.
We’re all going to die, so how do you want to live?
I’m not asking what the future has in store, I just take each day as a gift and enjoy it.
Praise is like chewing gum. Enjoy it but don’t swallow it.
Stay on an even keel, be sharp, be wise, be real.
Nothing lasts… not even unhappiness.
Write something and then try to take as many words out of it as you can and still retain the meaning.
You learn most about yourself in hard times.
When it’s an uphill climb, stay calm, stay level in your mind.
Good health, a good conscience and a comfortable house, every now and then a delicious mouse.
A garden and friends and books… I have everything I need.
Experience is as a good a name as any for our mistakes.
Even while striving, stay calm and keep driving.
Don’t say good things about someone unless you mean them, and, if you mean them, say them all the time and loudly.
I’m so smart that I often don’t understand a word I’m saying.
People are wrong when they say pop music is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what’s wrong with it.
It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.
Power without probity is pernicious.
Strength without scruple is sick.
Success is being able to do for a living that which makes you happy.
I never thought I would spend my life doing something fun. Of course I never thought at all.
Inside I am still a geek, and maybe outside too.
You can do something great not by force, or even by talent, but simply by keeping at it.
It’s hard to fake creativity and humor.
All of us should be very thankful that life is unfair.
I like it when my avocations become my vocations.
I’ll go through life either in first class or in third, but never in second.
I read my favorite books over and over. I have probably read Boswell’s Life of Johnson ten times. And it’s not a little book in any sense.
There is a lot of craft behind comedy, but if comedy is done right, you never see the craft.
You can ask me almost anything and I will answer you as best I can.
I bet people never asked Edgar Varèse, “Hey, do you ever think of doing funny music?”
I try to do what is real, not ideal.
I travel so much that I love to be at home.
There are always two or three or four sides to every story.
What’s interesting about the process of playing music is how often you have no idea what you’re doing.
There’s a hidden link between absolute discipline and absolute freedom.
The old days were the old days and they were great days, but now is now.
If you practice a bit, you can be whatever kind of person you choose, so choose well.
Wit or pleasantry or humor is always to be encouraged… even puns.
People always think that performers are extraverts which is almost never the case in my experience.
Never go anywhere where you have to wear brown shoes.
I couldn’t wait for success, so I’ve gone ahead without it.
Finding fame later in life is much healthier.
If you ever see me in a social setting wearing any kind of sportswear, you’ll know I’m in trouble.
I’m not a royal family watcher… not really a watcher of any kind of celebrity, come to think of it.
It makes me happy when musicians get rich, because the odds against it are so great.
It’s a good thing I brought my library card, because I am checking you out.
I find it hard to relax around any man who’s got the second button on his shirt undone.
What do Alexander the Great and Sam the Ham have in common? Their middle names.
I rarely leave my house.
I don’t want to associate myself with any specific group of politicians.
I did pick up a guitar once, but the strings hurt my fingers so I put it down again.
I’ve always been in the right place at the right time. I put myself there.
When she started to play, Steinway came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano.
I’m Jewish, but I’m totally not.
Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.
Of course there is other intelligent life in the universe, probably on hundreds, if not millions of planets. They are all so far away, however, that we may never find them. Space is immense. That’s a good name for it. Space.
I love to play with great guitar players. Great guitar players make everything better.
I love criticism just so long as it’s unqualified praise.
I’ve become a really honest person since I was a child, but I do have some overdue library fines.
We’ll see you next week.
Big Brother and the Holding Company
These are some of my tools:
When I go on the road with Big Brother and the Holding Company I take a set of pencils along and sketch in the mornings.
Winsor & Newton brushes, although I’ll use anything that feels right, even a twig torn off a tree, which I have used many times.
A Gibson Hummingbird guitar that Janis gave me. I use it for jazz mostly. It has a beautiful singing treble and a big throated bass.
Jim Dunlop guitar pick, two millimeters thick. Takes a lot to wear one out.
Gibson Les Paul, easy to play, good sustain, shhh, can you hear it?
Paul Reed Smith gave me this guitar. I love it.
I have several of these snail-like tuners. They cost about $ 20 apiece. I can put two or three in my pocket. They replace a tuner that I used, but did not own, in the 1960s. It was a Hammond Strobo-Con and it sold for about $ 450 in 1960s money ($ 4,500 today?). It was larger than a shoebox, it had pretty purple lights and it was really an oscilloscope.
Shortly after the oscilloscope experience came a tuner that you could plug into the amp and it would emit a constant and annoying A 440. We used that for a while. We were a string band, like a string quartet, so our tuning wandered, did it ever.
Mesa Boogie Subway Rocket, tiny and terrific.
I have other tools: Books, books under the couch, on the floor, on my desk, in the bathroom, some even in bookcases, on the kitchen table, in the car, in my bag, on my night table, in the bed, under the bed, in the closet, everywhere.
And let’s not forget this computer. It’s organic.
There are two stages of prehistory, the Paleolithic which began about two million years ago, and then the Neolithic which took hold in the Near East (Mesopotamia) about 10,000 BCE.
The tools of the Paleolithic were very basic, of course, and mostly used for food gathering.
Neolithic tools were much more complex stone instruments used for agriculture and building.
Homo Sapiens was first in evidence about 500,000 years ago and before that there was Homo Erectus, a very successful tool making species which arose about two million years ago, who learned to make fire.
Homo Habilis (handy man), the first species of human being, coexisted with hominids such as Paranthropus and Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy).
Making tools and teaching the making of tools to others is practiced in all human societies.
In the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago, people began to make bows and arrows and spear throwers. They domesticated the wolf.
They made beautiful paintings on the walls of caves like Chauvet.
Paintings with as developed a sense of perspective, shading and drama as we can make today, and they did them 35,000 years ago.
They did their painting in the dark. Well, maybe they used a hollowed out stone, poured in some animal fat and made a wick out of hemp or some other fiber. That’s not that much light, though, there underground far from the cave’s mouth. Seventy of these lamps, in all shapes and sizes, were found on the floor of Lascaux.
Neanderthals, who had bigger brains than we do, but who were not as tall, took care of their old and infirm and they buried their dead.
There was even something of a cult of the dead in the Middle Paleolithic (100,000 – 50,000 years ago).
Neanderthals were most likely absorbed into Homo Sapiens populations such as the Cro-Magnons.
Around 10,000 BCE, a surprising thing happened. In different parts of the world, parts that had no way of communicating with each other, people began to hit on the idea of growing their food and domesticating animals. In the Near East, India, Africa, North Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America this Neolithic Revolution fundamentally changed peoples’ lives.
This Revolution took two different roads: one went from gathering food to growing it, to plowing the fields.
The other path out of the Paleolithic went from hunting to herding and led to pastoral nomadism.
Where there was enough water, particularly in great river areas, agriculture prevailed.
Where the land was too dry for farming, people kept herds of animals and led a nomadic life.
Mongols, Bedouins, the Sami (Lapp) people who still follow the reindeer, the people in the New World who domesticated llamas, all are examples of people who descended from hunters, not gatherers.
The people who settled in the great river valleys, the Nile, Mesopotamia (which means “in the middle of rivers”), the Indus-Ganges valley, the Yellow River valley, the Ohio Mississippi valley planted crops, were stable from year to year, formulated laws and customs and social classes, built cities, invented writing systems.
Civilization is all about water.
The Romans settled by the Tiber in the center of Italy.
They were the master engineers of the ancient world.
Technology is the world of farming, weaving, potting, building, transporting, healing, governing and, let’s not forget, glassmaking.
Glass objects have been recovered across the Roman Empire in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used mainly in vessels, although mosaic tiles and window glass were also produced. This is beach sand, the main ingredient in Roman glass.
Roman glass production developed from late Greek technical traditions, and was about the making of intensely colored cast glass vessels.
During the 1st century CE there was rapid technical growth in glassmaking and glass blowing. Colorless or ‘aqua’ glasses were important at this time.
Production of raw glass was begun in one place and finished in another, and by the end of the 1st century CE large scale manufacturing resulted in the establishment of glass as a commonly available material in the Roman world, from everyday glass to technically very difficult specialized types of luxury products, which must have been very expensive.
At the beginning of the 1st century CE there was still no Latin word for glass. Vitrum came to be used and is the word that passed down into the Romance languages.
Glassmaking was a relatively minor craft during the Republican period (6th to 1st centuries BCE), although, during the early decades of the 1st century CE the quantity and diversity of glass vessels available increased dramatically.
This was a direct result of the massive growth of the Roman influence at the end of the Republican period, the Pax Romana that followed the decades of civil war, and the stability that occurred under Augustus.
Glassblowing, a major new technique in glass production which had been introduced during the 1st century CE. allowed glass workers to produce vessels with considerably thinner walls, decreasing the amount of glass needed for each vessel. Glass blowing was also considerably quicker than other techniques, and vessels required considerably less finishing, representing a further saving in time, raw material and equipment.
Although earlier techniques dominated during the early Augustan and Julio-Claudian periods, by the middle to late 1st century CE these techniques had been largely abandoned in favor of blowing the glass into shape.
Glassblowing is a glass forming technique which was invented by the Phoenicians around 50 BCE somewhere along the Syro-Palestinian coast.
The concentration of natron, which acts as a flux in glass, is slightly lower in blown vessels than those manufactured by casting. Lower concentration of natron allowed the glass to be stiffer for blowing.
The gaffer (glass blower) slowly blows into the tube and inflates the parison, the glass bubble. As it expands, the parison loses heat and becomes solid.
This is one of those beautiful changes in nature where a liquid suddenly becomes solid and is thus frozen forever. Amber, where sap becomes a jewel is one example. Using plaster of Paris where the whole mixture heats and suddenly becomes solid is another. Watching a drop of water almost fall from the eave of a house and then suddenly become solid ice is an example. In ceramics, the artist works with the watery clay which at one point becomes solid and will stay that way forever, which is an alchemy in itself. All of this change from a liquid impermanence to a solid forever lasting is so interesting to watch.
The two major methods of glassblowing are free-blowing and mold-blowing. Free-blowing involves the blowing of short puffs of air into a molten portion of glass (the gather) which has been spooled at one end of the blowpipe. This has the effect of forming an elastic skin on the interior of the glass blob that matches the exterior skin caused by the removal of heat from the furnace. The glassworker can then quickly inflate the molten glass to a coherent blob and work it into a desired shape.
Mold-blowing was an alternate glassblowing method that came after the invention of free-blowing, during the first part of the second quarter of the 1st century CE. A glob of molten glass is placed on the end of the blowpipe, and is then inflated into a wooden or metal carved mold. In this way, the shape and the texture of the bubble of glass is determined by the design on the interior of the mold rather than the skill of the glassworker, although it takes a great deal of skill just to blow this glass into that mold.
Single-piece mold and multi-piece mold were frequently used to produce mold-blown vessels. A single-piece mold allows the finished glass object to be removed in one movement by pulling it upwards from the mold. This method is for producing tableware and utilitarian vessels for storage and transportation.
A multi-piece mold is made in paneled mold segments that join together, thus permitting the development of more sophisticated surface modeling, texture and design.
This piece was blown in a three-part mold decorated with the foliage relief frieze of four vertical plants. After the discovery of mold-blown techniques during the Roman era, glass vessels were created and signed by individual makers, such as Ennion, and their superb works were appreciated by the buying public.
Ennion was one of the most prominent glassworkers from Phoenicia (Lebanon). He was renowned for producing the multi-paneled mold-blown glass vessels that were complex in their shapes, arrangement and decorative motifs.
Ennion signed this piece. The complexity of designs of these mold-blown glass vessels documented the sophistication of the glassworkers in the eastern regions of the Roman Empire.
Mold-blown glass vessels manufactured by the workshops of Ennion and other contemporary glassworkers such as Jason, Nikon, Aristeas, and Meges, constitutes some of the earliest evidence of glassblowing found in the eastern territories.
One of the main glassblowing centers of the Roman period was established in Colonia Agrippinensis (Köln Cologne) on the Rhine in the late 1st century BCE. Stone base molds and terracotta base molds were discovered from these Rhineland workshops, suggesting the adoption and the application of mold-blowing technique by the glassworkers.
Diatret glass from Köln would usually comprise a colorless glass cup, set in a cage of brightly colored strands of glass. The cage cup (Greek diatreton, also vas diatretum, plural diatreta, or “reticulated cup”) is a type of luxury vessel, found from about the 4th century CE. It is the pinnacle of Roman achievement in glassmaking.
Blown flagons and blown jars decorated with ribbing, as well as blown perfume bottles with letters CCAA or CCA which stand for Colonia Claudia Agrippinensis were also produced in Köln.
What generated the money to buy these luxuries? Mostly, it was the land, agriculture and the plow (plough). Some of the main parts of the plow are: 1. the handle c. the share (this is the part that digs into the earth). The coulter (4) looks like a knife and coulter means knife. It is the iron knifelike object that first breaks the soil so that the share can turn the earth over. 3. looks like a moldboard (mouldboard) which will turn the soil that the share has delved into, turn it and make it ready to receive the seed.
There is an old saying for peace, ”beating our swords into plowshares.”
The sole (or slade) is the part of the plow that is flat and lies along the ground to make the furrow wider. Here a man is pouring seed into a funnel that will lead to the sole so that plowing and sowing can be done at the same time. This is a seed drill.
In the first century BCE, Virgil wrote about the Roman plow (plough) with an iron plowshare. ”From its youth up, in the woods, the elm is bent by main force and trained for a plow stock, taking the form of a crooked plow: to suit this a beam is shaped stretching eight feet in front, while behind are attached two mold boards resting on the slade (or sole piece) with a double ridge.” This image shows the handles, the plowshare and the coulter in front of the share, and a wheel, the whole being pulled by a team of oxen.
In both Egypt and Mesopotamia the plow was little more than a forked branch dragged through the soil by a pair of oxen. The plowman held the two branches of the fork as handles and the junction was sharpened to a point which eventually became the share. A single pointed piece of timber formed a share and sole (B & C below). The share cut the soil and the sole pushed it aside to make a deeper and wider furrow.
The plow or plough was invented somewhere around 6,000 BCE once man started using animal power. In Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Indus Valley (Pakistan-India) man first harnessed the ox to the plow. The first plow is called the ARD. Part C is the sole of the plow. It helped to smooth the soil.
In English, as in other Germanic languages, the plow was traditionally known by other names, e.g. Old English sulh, Old High German medela, geiza, huohili, and Old Norse arðr (Swedish årder), all presumably referring to the scratch plow (ard).
The current word plow comes from Old Norse plógr, but it appears relatively late (it is not attested in Gothic), and is thought to be a loanword from one of the north Italic languages. Words with the same root appeared with related meanings: in Raetic plaumorati ”wheeled heavy plow” (Pliny), and in Latin plaustrum ”farm cart”, plōstrum, plōstellum ”cart”, and plōxenum, plōximum ”cart box”. The word must have originally referred to the wheeled heavy plow which was known in Roman northwestern Europe by the 5th century CE.
The domestication of oxen in Mesopotamia perhaps as early as the 6th millennium BCE provided the draft power necessary to develop the larger, animal-drawn true ard. The earliest was the bow ard, which consists of a draft-pole (or beam) pierced by a thinner vertical pointed stick called the head (or body), with one end being the stilt (handle) and the other a share (cutting blade) that was dragged through the topsoil to cut a shallow furrow ideal for most cereal crops in that part of the world.
The ard does not clear new land well, so hoes or mattocks must be used to pull up grass and undergrowth, and a hand-held, coulter-like ristle could be used to cut deeper furrows ahead of the share.
Because the ard leaves a strip of undisturbed earth between the furrows, the fields are often cross-ploughed lengthwise and across, and this tends to form squarish fields (Celtic fields). The ard is best suited for loamy or sandy soils which are naturally fertilized by annual flooding, as in the Nile delta or in Mesopotamia, and to a lesser extent any other cereal-growing region with light or thin soil.
By the late Iron Age ards in Europe were commonly fitted with coulters which is the knifelike piece of metal that cuts a thin line in the soil to make it easier for the share, the tip of the large metal piece behind it to enter the soil. Couteau is French for knife as is Italian coltello. The rest of the metal behind the share is the moldboard which turns the soil over and makes a good furrow.
This is a coulter from a Roman plow. The coulter dug its sharp nose into the muck and slime of the earth before the plowshare arrived. Do you know any Coulters? Do they fit their name? I know one Coulter, and this is the perfect name for her.
By the third century BCE the Chinese were using malleable cast iron plowshares called kuan which had a central ridge ending in a sharp point for soil cutting, and wings which threw the soil off the share and away from the plow.
The frame plow was the government recommended instrument and even literati urged this plow on agriculturalists. There was an adjustable strut which exactly set the plowing depth by changing the space between the blade and the beam.
Government and private foundries for casting iron farming tools were widespread in China. Iron was so common that ordinary people had iron cooking pots.
The moldboard, the twisted piece of the plow above the share, turns the plowed clods gently to one side so they don’t gum up the works.
This was used on the square framed turn plow that could turn heavier soils and virgin land. By the first century BCE these plowshares reached a width of over six inches.
Chinese plows were imported into Holland by Dutch sailors in the 17th century CE, and later Dutch plowmen were hired to drain the fens of East Anglia, so their “Rotherham” plows were adopted by the English. This design was then taken to America where, in the 19th century, steel frames were adopted. There was no single more important tool in the agricultural revolution.
Horses live on the steppes and grassy plains, so there were very few in Mesopotamia or Egypt. Oxen were probably the first draft animals in these regions. Notice that the yoke is tied to their horns rather than placed over the shoulders. This was the inefficient and even cruel earliest form of the yoke. The Chinese were the only people in ancient civilizations who designed an efficient draft animal harness.
In the west, the throat and girth harness was used, an absurd arrangement that choked the horse as soon as she exerted herself. Animals so harnessed could only pull a very light load.
In about the fourth century BCE, the Chinese put the harness across the animal’s chest, and later over the shoulders which put the weight of the load on the chest and collar bones. This is the trace harness. The pull is on the skeleton of the draft animal instead of on its throat.
This understanding of the efficiency of dragging a heavy weight may have come from the fact that humans did a lot of the heavy lifting and pulling in the Chinese culture (such as with barge pulling along canals) and humans can talk back and describe how the harnesses would actually feel.
The collar harness is the most efficient means of pulling something. A horse with a collar harness can easily pull a ton and a half. With the choking throat and girth harness, TWO horses can pull about half a ton.
The horse collar in China dates from sometime between the fourth and the first centuries BCE. This is a thousand years before its appearance in Europe.
A member of the equid family that did thrive in the desert areas of Mesopotamia was the onager, one of the largest species of Asiatic wild ass and also one of the fastest; adults have been known to reach speeds of over 40 miles per hour. This equid is now an endangered species.
Onagers were once abundant throughout China, Mongolia, and the Middle East, but it is estimated that only 600-700 now remain in just two protected areas of Iran.
When the yoke was improved by putting it across the shoulders of the animals, it became possible to use the onager as a draft animal. The yoke was a cross member to a single draft pole, which meant that there had a be a pair of animals, or sometimes even four.
The plow in Crete had only a single handle which gave the plowman a free hand with which to goad his oxen or onagers.
This type of plow may have been imported from Greece or Anatolia.
The plow with a share and sole was probably invented somewhere to the north of Mesopotamia since it was designed to dig deeper into the soil and so to make a better furrow for the seed. In the light soils of Mesopotamia and Egypt the older type of plow was sufficient because it didn’t matter in that light soil that the seed was shallowly planted.
Farther north, a plow that wouldn’t plant the seed deeply was useless, since a longer germination time was required. This new type of plow with share and flat, wide sole appeared in Mesopotamia a bit before 1000 BCE, but didn’t reach Egypt until nearly a thousand years later.
China had so many advantages over the west for so long and none more than in the design of the plow. For thousands of years millions of farmers in the west plowed the earth in a style that was so inefficient, so exhausting, so wasteful that it is heartbreaking to contemplate the long millennia of what may be humanity’s single greatest waste of time and energy. This character means “man.” The upper part is a field and the lower means a sword or knife and thus “force,” so a man is one who labors in the field.
One of the many ironies of history is that when the Chinese plow was finally brought to Europe and copied (about 1650 CE), there was an agricultural revolution which led directly to the industrial revolution and then to the predominance of the West over China.
The simplest and most widespread form of plow is called an “ard, which had a shallow plowshare, as we have seen, and is often preferred in windy areas with thin, dry soil.
Triangular stone plowshares have been found in China which date from 4,000 – 5,000 BCE, and they show that the Chinese used draft animals to pull plows as far back as the neolithic.
Bronze plowshares from around 1,600 BCE have been found in Tonkin. China traded with this area at that time, and, indeed, still does today.
The first iron plows in the world were Chinese and they date from about 500 BCE. They were either solid iron or iron over wood, and were attached to the plow proper in a better way than in the west.
One of the major developments of the ancient Chinese agriculture was the use of the iron moldboard plows. Though probably first developed in the 4th century BCE and promoted by the central government, they were popular and common by the Han Dynasty. A major invention was the adjustable strut which, by altering the distance of the blade and the beam, could precisely set the depth of the plow. This technology did not reach England and Holland until the 17th century, sparking an abundance of food which, as noted above, was a necessary prerequisite for the industrial revolution.
The Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) of China, which corresponds roughly with the Roman period of dominance in the west, witnessed some of the most significant advancements in premodern Chinese science and technology, some of the most significant advancements anywhere on the planet at any time. Remember those ceramic lamps in the west? Here is a Chinese lamp from about the same time.
There were great innovations in metallurgy in China. The Han period saw the development of steel and wrought iron by use of the finery forge and puddling process.
Drilling deep boreholes into the earth, the Chinese used not only derricks to lift brine up to the surface to be boiled into salt, but also set up bamboo-crafted pipeline systems which brought natural gas as fuel to the furnaces.
It only takes a moment’s thought about the all too clear superiority of Chinese technology to the west for so many thousands of years to ask a question that Joseph Needham asked maybe as early as the 1930s. Why, given this millennia advantage in science, did China simply stop developing somewhere about the time of the western Renaissance? What happened? This is the famous Chinese question, and one could ask it equally about the Indian and the Arab cultures. They were so far ahead when we were in the “Dark Ages,” what happened? Why did they stop? I have never heard a really satisfactory answer to this question. Is there some kind of internal clock that governs the evolution of cultures, and, if so, what time is it in the west?
Joseph Needham (1900–1995) did his work at Cambridge University and was author of a masterpiece, Science and Civilisation in China, a monumental work in 24 volumes. Doctor Needham noted that the “Han time (especially the Later Han) was one of the relatively important periods as regards the history of science in China,” and, he may well have added, the history of science for all of humanity.
Smelting techniques in the Han time were enhanced with inventions such as water wheel powered bellows. The resulting widespread distribution of iron tools facilitated the growth of agriculture.
For tilling the soil and planting straight rows of crops, the improved heavy-moldboard plow with three iron plowshares and sturdy multiple-tube iron seed drill were invented in the Han, which greatly enhanced production yields and thus sustained population growth.
The method of supplying irrigation ditches with water was improved with the invention of the mechanical chain pump powered by the rotation of a waterwheel or draft animals or human power, which could transport irrigation water up to elevated terrains.
The waterwheel was also used for operating trip hammers in pounding grain
and in rotating the metal rings of the mechanical-driven astronomical armillary sphere representing the celestial sphere around the Earth.
The Han Chinese had hemp-bound bamboo scrolls for writing, which were already better than anything we had in the west, yet by the 2nd century CE they had invented the papermaking process which created a writing medium that was both cheap and easy to produce.
Before the Han period people scratched characters on shells and bones and on bronzeware.
The material dictated the shape of the writing.
The Eastern Han court eunuch Cai Lun created a process in 105 CE where mulberry tree bark, hemp, old linens, and fish nets were boiled together to make a pulp that was pounded, stirred in water, and then dunked with a wooden sieve containing a reed mat that was shaken, dried, and bleached into sheets of paper.
The world’s first printed book is the Diamond Sutra (868 CE).
The invention of the wheelbarrow in China aided in the hauling of heavy loads.
There are wheelbarrow designs in China that we still have not exploited, tools that are capable of transporting a thousand pounds of material by one person.
The junk and stern-mounted steering rudder enabled the Chinese to venture out of calmer waters of interior lakes and rivers and into the open sea.
The invention of the grid reference for maps and the relief map allowed the Chinese to better navigate their terrain. There were some Chinese maps that were only a grid and the names of places were simply placed on the grid with no background whatsoever. No color, no details, no nothing except for the grid which was enough.
Chinese medicine used new herbal remedies to cure illnesses, calisthenics for the maintenance of physical condition, and regulated diets for avoidance of disease. The first traces of therapeutic activities in China date from the Shang dynasty (14th–11th centuries BCE). Joseph Needham speculated that acupuncture might have originated in the Shang dynasty, but most historians now make a distinction between medical lancing, bloodletting, and acupuncture in the narrower sense of using metal needles to treat illnesses by stimulating specific points along circulation channels (“meridians”) in accordance with theories related to the circulation of Qi. The earliest Chinese evidence for acupuncture in this sense dates to the second or first century BCE.
It is probably worth mentioning here that our man from the Italian/Austrian Ötztal, Ötzi, had a number of tattoos that don’t seem to be decorative, but seem to coordinate with acupuncture points that the Chinese were studying. Ötzi lived 5,300 years ago near Bolzano, Italy. There is so much that we don’t know. It’s rather exciting. Did early Europeans have any notion of acupuncture? Ötzi’s “tattoos,” which were pin pricks accented by the charcoal on the bone points, seem to suggest that they did.
Authorities in the Chinese capital were warned ahead of time of the direction of sudden earthquakes with the invention of the seismograph that was tripped by a vibration-sensitive pendulum device. In 132 AD, Zhang Heng, a great scientist in the Eastern Han Dynasty, invented the seismograph – the earliest instrument in the world for forecasting and reporting the movement of an earthquake.
The instrument is decorated with tortoises, birds, dragons, toads and other animal images. If there was an earthquake, the copper ball inside the seismograph dropped out from the mouth of one dragon and fell right into the mouth of the toad below. (There are eight dragons representing eight directions.) From the falling direction of the ball, one could judge where an earthquake might be happening.
In ancient Chinese philosophy, the dragon symbolizes Yang, while the toad symbolizes Yin. Thus, it constitutes the dialectic relationship between Yin and Yang, upwards and downwards, and movement and stillness. How accurate were these instruments? Who can tell? It might be better to listen to the animals out in the yard. (The Chinese did this too.)
Han-era Chinese advances in mathematics include the discovery of square roots, cube roots, the Pythagorean theorem, Gaussian elimination, the Horner scheme, improved calculations of pi, and negative numbers. Remember that the Han era coincides rather closely with the height of Roman civilization. Can you imagine doing this kind of mathematics with Roman numerals, with no place made for the zero?
The Han-era Chinese also employed several types of bridges to cross waterways and deep gorges, such as beam bridges, arch bridges, simple suspension bridges, and pontoon bridges. Many of them are still being used.
The bureaucracy in China, which was unimaginably strong and ubiquitous, at first aided and initiated the growth of science and technology. In fact, it was often bureaucrats themselves who were inventors, or at least instigators and promoters of new technologies, but later officials actively prevented change and innovation.
The slowing down of the amazing Chinese advance of civilization happened about the same time as the protestant reformation in the west, which, in loosening the hold of the Church on scientific inquiry (as in the case of Galileo), spurred the development of technological advance and ushered in the agricultural and industrial revolutions which have lasted for three and a half centuries now (1650-2000 CE). The 21st century may see a new flowering of Chinese science. It is difficult to tell at this point whether the Chinese people are going to move from Communism to a new kind of secularism which will foster a reëxamination of ideas and values in China, or whether a totalitarian spirit aided by information technologies will stifle any new growth.
Evidently people are beginning to invent again in China in the arts and in the sciences because of new prosperity and new confidence.
China is showing that it only took a short nap and is now awakening after a brief three and a half century siesta. Her history is measured in millennia. Ours in centuries. Maybe there is no Chinese question. Maybe it has already being answered.
We’ll see you next week.
To Ergaleio: sign on a shop in Athens says “The Tool” written out in Greek with tools.
Many, many hand axes have been found in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.
Such axes were made by Homo Erectus, the first tool making creature.
These people loved making handaxes. They made them for practical use, yes, but also for the sheer creative joy of it. They made hand axes that were far too large for normal use, just because they liked the form. At least that’s what it looks like from this distance. They made Acheulian hand axes in all sizes and varieties. These were the first tools that are recognizable as such.
This is a hand axe that was found near Gray’s Inn Road, London. It is 350,000 years old.
John Frere (10 August 1740 – 12 July 1807) was an English antiquary and a pioneering discoverer of paleolithic tools in association with large extinct animals such as elephants.
He used the Gray’s Inn hand axe and one he found in Hoxne, Suffolk, to illustrate the antiquity of human culture at a time when many people thought the world was 6,000 years old. Actually, many people still do think that the world is 6,000 years old and they carry around misspelled signs to insist upon their belief.
Hand axes were made from flint or any other stone that would take a sharp edge. Flakes were hammered off using another stone, and the flakes themselves were used to make smaller tools such as scrapers and knives.
This is called flint knapping or pressure flaking and it is a technique that can make a tool of great precision and beauty.
About 25,000 years ago, people learned how to control the shape of the flake from the parent block so that long, narrow blades could be made into knives, chisels and gravers.
Maybe those two feet long Acheulian hand axes were made simply as the source for these flake blades.
Bone and antler tools were shaped by abrasion and cutting.
They could be polished with sandstone, so there is ample evidence of several step manufacture here that required planning ahead.
A soft stone could be hollowed out
and a lamp made using animal fat and a wick of twisted vegetable matter.
This is a wooden sickle (Thebes, 1300 BCE) with a flint blade in the shape of a cattle jawbone. Perhaps jawbones were originally used to harvest cereal crops.
The silica in the strong stems of the crop often wore down the flints, leaving behind a deposit or gloss.
A tool kit from 14,000 years ago could contain a sickle for harvesting wild wheat or barley, a cluster of flint spearheads, a flint core for making more spearheads, some smooth stones (maybe slingshots), a large stone for striking flint pieces off the flint core, a cluster of gazelle toe bones which were used to make beads. Leaves and herbs were often carried as medicine.
Remember Ötzi who was found in the ice in Italy near Bolzano?
He is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived about 5,000 years ago. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps (hence Ötzi) near the Similaun mountain and Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. He is Europe’s oldest natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic Europeans. His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.
Seventy objects found with Ötzi. They include a cape of woven grass; a bearskin cap; a goat-hide coat; leather leggings and loincloth; shoes with bearskin soles and deerskin uppers, filled with grass; an unfinished longbow, and a deerskin quiver containing 14 arrows (only two of which were finished); a backpack frame of hazel and larchwood; a copper axe with a wooden haft and leather bindings; a dagger with a flint blade and an ashwood shaft in a woven grass sheath; and some containers of sewn birchbark.
The axe’s haft is 60 centimeters (24 in) long and made from carefully worked yew with a right-angled crook at the shoulder, leading to the blade.
The 9.5 centimetres (3.7 in) long axe head (blade) is made of almost pure copper, produced by a combination of casting, cold forging, polishing, and sharpening. It was let into the forked end of the crook and fixed there using birch tar and tight leather lashing. The blade part of the head extends out of the lashing and shows clear signs of having been used to chop and cut. At the time, such an axe would have been a valuable possession, important both as a tool and as a status symbol for the bearer.
Ötzi’s knife measured 5.2 in in total length. The handle was made of ash, the blade was flint and the sheath of woven lime wood bast. A string was attached to the back of the knife.
Ötzi also had a tool designed for flint knapping, also called a retoucher, because one could pressure flake the knife blade or the projectile points with it, and so sharpen them.
It consisted of a piece of lime tree branch, which was pointed on one side. On the pointed side a hole was drilled, into which a bone plug (stag antler) was inserted with which the knapping was done.
A quiver of arrows was also discovered alongside Ötzi. It was made of leather, and held 14 arrows made of viburnum sapwood. Two of the arrows were completed. They had flint tips, held with birch tar and bindings. The other 12 arrows were unfinished. In the quiver several pieces of antler were also discovered.
Ötzi was also carrying an unfinished yew bow. The stave was 72 inches long.
Ötzi also carried two birch bark containers possibly used to carry some other items. They were about 5.9 in to 6.0 inches in diameter and about 7.8 inches in height. They were stitched together using tree fiber. Tests have shown that one of them contained maple leaves as well as spruce needles and charcoal, probably an ember for fire making. The leaves were most likely medicinal.
He had a long belt with a pouch on the side. In the pouch he had several flakes of flint, a 2.8 in long bone awl, and a small drill. The majority of the pouch was filled with tinder fungus. Some traces of iron pyrites were also found, indicating that he was perhaps using a flint and steel method of fire lighting. We will leave Ötzi for now, but I plan to see him when I next pass through Bolzano.
This is a metate, also referred to as a “piedra de moler” (grinding stone), this tool is related in lineage to the molcajete, and was used by the Mayans and Aztecs.
The metate is used to grind corn and for mashing ingredients to make salsas, purees, and chocolate. La mano is the cylindrical part that you hold in your hands.
There is an idiom in Mexican Spanish, “Echar comal y metate” which literally could mean “throw the tortilla oven and the corngrinder,” but it really means what we mean when we say “chew the fat.” It means chismear which is to gossip. It would be natural to do a lot of talking while grinding and baking.
A quern is a hand-mill for grinding corn or other grains. The simplest kind consists of a large stone with a cavity in the upper surface to contain the corn which is then pounded, rather than ground, by a smaller stone.
The more usual form of quern consists of two circular flat stones, the upper one pierced in the centre, and revolving on a wooden pin inserted in the lower. A handle is attached to the outer edge and used to turn the stone while corn is dropped into the central opening.
Millstones come in pairs. The base or bedstone is stationary. Above the bedstone is the turning runner stone which actually does the grinding.
The runner stone spins above the stationary bedstone creating the “scissoring” or grinding action of the stones.
A runner stone is generally slightly concave, while the bedstone is slightly convex. This helps to channel the ground flour to the outer edges of the stones where it can be gathered up.
The runner stone is supported by a cross-shaped metal piece (rind or rynd) fixed to a “mace head” topping the main shaft or spindle leading to the driving mechanism of the mill which can be powered by wind, water, animal, man.
The Greeks invented the two main components of watermills, the waterwheel and toothed gearing, and were the first to operate undershot, overshot and breastshot waterwheel mills.
Undershot water wheel developed for watermilling since the 1st century BCE.
Overshot water wheel used for watermilling also since the 1st century BCE.
Breastshot water wheel used for watermilling since the 3rd century CE.
The first water-driven wheel is probably the Perachora wheel (3rd c. BCE), in Greece.
The earliest written reference is in the technical treatises Pneumatica and Parasceuastica of the Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium(ca. 280−220 BC).
Those portions of Philo of Byzantium’s mechanical treatise which describe water wheels and which have been previously regarded as later Arabic interpolations, actually date back to the Greek 3rd century BCE original.
The sakia gear is, already fully developed, for the first time attested in a 2nd century BCE Hellenistic wall painting in Ptolemaic Egypt.
People needed to clear the land for crops, so you would think that the earliest dwellings would be made of timber.
In Mesopotamia, however, the earliest building material was sun-dried brick bricks which before 5,000 BCE were molded by hand and looked like stones or even loaves of bread.
Brick molds were made very early.
Mud in almost liquid form was packed down into the molds which were then removed so that the new brick could sit in the hot sun to dry.
Brick molds were used at least as far back as 6,000 BCE in Anatolia (Turkey).
And now I must describe how the soil dug out to make the moat was used, and the method of building the wall. While the digging was going on, the earth that was shoveled out was formed into bricks, which were baked in kilns as soon as sufficient number were made; then using hot bitumen for mortar, the workmen began at revetting the brick each side of the moat, and then went on to erect the actual wall. In both cases they laid rush-mats between every thirty courses of bricks. — Herodotus, i. 179 (of Babylon)
The floor of the dwelling was made of a carefully laid layer of clay and it was soon discovered that clay could be hardened by firing which ushered in the age of pottery.
The earliest cooking vessels were probably made of wood or a hollowed out stone or gourds or shells.
Right up into the 19th century, native Americans like the Miwoks of the San Francisco bay area boiled water in tightly woven baskets for the processing of acorns.
The earliest pottery we know already shows advanced techniques such as the addition of sand or crushed rock to prevent shrinkage during drying and also to prevent breakage.
Potters seldom used just one clay mixture and they paid a great deal of attention, of course, to the properties of the finished product.
People had burnished the walls and floors of their brick and clay houses and they likewise burnished their pottery by rubbing it with a stone.
In the beginning, a base of the pot was molded over a shape of a hemisphere, perhaps the bottom of an old pot, and then rings of clay were added.
The first potter was the sumerian-babylonian Aruru the great, the almighty gentle mother god of the earth and birth, who created humanity from clay. She molded mankind out of clay using a god as pattern and breathed life into him with her divine exhalation. In Sumerian mythology, Aruru (also known as Ninmah, Nintu, Ninhursaga, Belet- ili or Mami) was the almighty mother goddess of the earth and birth.
She created the first man out of clay (adamah = the female soil). She confected seven mother-vessels for women and seven for men. « The shapes of humanity are formed by Aruru » as say the Assyrians.
This is the Sumer tree of life (qaballah). In Sumerian and Babylonian mythology, Adamu was the first man.
The gods tricked Adamu and his descendants out of immortality – not wanting man to be immortal like the gods – by telling him that the magic food of eternal life was poisonous to him, and as such Adamu didn’t eat it and so didn’t become immortal.
The word “ceramics” comes from the Greek keramikos (κεραμικος), meaning “pottery”, which in turn comes from keramos (κεραμος), meaning “potter’s clay.” This is the Ishtar gate which is made of glazed ceramics.
The Ishtar gate is now at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
The potter’s wheel was probably invented in Mesopotamia by the 4th millennium BCE.
The oldest pottery vessels come from East Asia, with finds in China and Japan, then still united by a land bridge, from between 20,000 and 10,000 BCE, although the vessels were simple utilitarian objects. This pottery fragment is from a layer dating approximately 20,000 years old in the Xianrendong cave in south China’s Jiangxi province.
For thousands of years, small ceramic lamps were used to illuminate homes and temples. Hundreds of these lamps have been excavated, most of which are no more than a simple saucer-like vessel. Earlier lamps were wheel-thrown, while later lamps were formed from clay rolled into a sheet and pressed into a mold. Wicks were generally made of flax or hemp and were draped over the edge of the lamp. Olive oil was the preferred fuel, but other vegetable, nut and animal oils were also used.
Corinthian and Attic ware was superior to anything being produced in the west at this time and there are several reasons for this.
The potter’s wheel was no longer low and close to the ground. Now it was a large flywheel raised about a foot and a half and was turned by an assistant seated opposite the potter.
Once the object had been shaped and dried it was put back on the wheel, smoothed and shaved to give it a very fine surface.
The red and black were made by a sophisticated process that involved a very fine clay material and an elaborate sequence of firing.
The clay slip that was used for the black was clay, water and an alkali (probably leach from wood ash). This mixture was allowed to stand so that the crude parts sank to the bottom and only the fine particles were suspended and they were poured off and the water evaporated out. This was then used to paint on the pot or plate.
The object was then put in the kiln and fired to around 1000 degrees centigrade when the openings in the furnace were closed which blackened the entire surface of the pot.
When the kiln had cooled down to 800 degrees or so, the apertures were reopened. The areas that had been painted with the slip stayed black but the unpainted parts slowly lost the black and turned red.
This is all easy to say and very difficult to do. There was a lot of trial and error, and only in recent years have potters been able to duplicate this process.
Pottery was produced in enormous quantities in ancient Rome, mostly for utilitarian purposes. It is found all over the former Roman empire and beyond. Monte Testaccio, a huge waste mound in Rome, was made almost entirely of broken amphorae used for transporting and storing liquids and other products, mostly Spanish olive oil, which was landed nearby and used as the main fuel for lamps, as well as for use in the kitchen and washing in the baths.
The major class of fine Roman pottery is the red-gloss ware often made in Italy and Gaul and widely traded, from the 1st century BCE to the late 2nd century CE, and traditionally known as terra sigillata.
Sigilla is Latin for the little figures that are, for example, in a cameo ring. There was actually a holiday called Sigillaria where people in Rome exchanged these little figures.
Sigilla is the origin of our word “seal,” probably because of the similarity between a cameo ring and a seal ring. The word sigilla is a Latin plural, but the singular sigillum was never used.
This terra sigillata bowl was made in Valladolid, Spain.
The usual way of making relief decoration on the surface of an open terra sigillata vessel was to throw a pottery bowl whose interior profile corresponded with the desired form of the final vessel’s exterior.
The internal surface was then decorated using individual positive stamps (poinçons), usually themselves made of fired clay, or small wheels bearing repeated motifs, such as the ovolo (egg-and-tongue) design that often formed the upper border of the decoration.
Sometimes the maker used a stylus to add details and embellish the work.
When the decoration was complete in intaglio on the interior, the mould was dried and fired in the usual way, and was subsequently used for shaping bowls. As the bowl dried, it shrank sufficiently to remove it from the mould, after which the finishing processes were carried out, such as the shaping or addition of a foot-ring and the finishing of the rim.
The details varied according to the form. The completed bowl could then be slipped, dried again, and fired.
Jugs and jars, were seldom decorated in relief using moulds, though some vessels of this type were made at La Graufesenque by making the upper and lower parts of the vessel separately in moulds and joining them at the point of widest diameter.
Relief-decoration of tall vases or jars was usually achieved by using moulded appliqué motifs (sprigs) and/or barbotine decoration (slip-trailing).
The latter technique was particularly popular at the East Gaulish workshops of Rheinzabern, and was also widely used on other pottery types.
By about 5,000 BCE there were farming villages throughout the Tigris-Euphrates valley, the Levant, Anatolia, mainland Greece and on, perhaps, a few islands in the eastern Mediterranean.
A little after 5,000 BCE in this same area, there came a whole set of technological advances that were to influence the whole life of humankind. People in these early farming communities decorated the walls of their homes. They decorated their tools. They decorated themselves too. There was a sense of liveliness and even of merriment in the culture.
The search was on for colors. Yellow ochre or limonite and red ochre or hematite are ores of iron.
Ores of copper are malachite, the green mineral, and the blue mineral, azurite.
Copper occurs as a metal in ore deposits and it was easy to find the green pigment which was used as eye shadow.
Brightly colored minerals, the red and yellow ochres and the blue and green ores of copper were ground to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle and then using animal fat as a binding medium, people began to make rouge and mascara.
Perhaps the search for these colors is what first led people to find out about copper and iron about seven thousand years ago.
Copper was not like other “stones” that people knew. It couldn’t be chipped or flaked but it could be hammered into shape. Only a little bit of hammering, though, would make the copper brittle and it would break. It was soon found that heating the copper to where it was red hot would allow the metal to be hammered some more and then it could be heated again. This process is called annealing.
Copper the metal is rare in ore deposits and the ore deposits themselves are scarce, and could be found mainly in the mountains of eastern Turkey and Syria, in the Zagros mountains (western Iran), in Sinai, in the mountains of the Arabian desert east of the Nile and on Cyrprus whose very name means “copper.”
Copper occurs as native copper in these places and was known to some of the oldest civilizations on record. It has a history of use that is at least 10,000 years old, and estimates of its discovery place it at 9000 BCE.
A copper pendant was found in northern Iraq that dates to 8700 BC. There is evidence that gold and iron from meteors (but not from iron smelting) were the only metals used by humans before copper.
The history of copper metallurgy is thought to have followed the following sequence: 1) hammering and working of naturally occurring copper 2) annealing, 3) smelting, and 4) the lost wax method.
In southeastern Anatolia, all four of these metallurgical techniques appear more or less simultaneously at the beginning of the Neolithic c. 7500 BCE.
Agriculture was independently invented in several parts of the world (including Pakistan, China, and the Americas) and, similarly, copper smelting was invented locally also in several different places.
Smelting was probably discovered independently in China before 2800 BCE, in Central America perhaps around 600 CE, and in West Africa about the 9th or 10th century CE.
Investment casting was invented in 4500–4000 BCE in Southeast Asia. Carbon dating has established copper mining at Alderly Edge in Cheshire UK at 2280 to 1890 BC.
The Bronze Age (bronze is copper with a little bit of tin added) began in southeastern Europe around 3700–3300 BCE, in northwestern Europe about 2500 BCE.
Copper was the metal first used to make tools and weapons. (Remember Ötzi’s axe blade?) Pure copper is, however, soft and not ideally suited to the purpose. It was discovered that, by alloying copper with tin, a much more durable metal could be produced: bronze.
The Bronze Age ended with the beginning of the Iron Age, 2000–1000 BC in the Near East, 600 BC in Northern Europe. The transition between the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age was formerly termed the Chalcolithic period (copper-stone), with copper tools being used with stone tools, but the term has gradually fallen out of favor because in some parts of the world the Calcholithic and Neolithic have the same beginning and end.
Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, is of much more recent origin. It was known to the Greeks, but became a significant supplement to bronze during the Roman Empire.
Pottery and glass will last through conditions that would soon destroy leather and wood, so we know far more about glass than we do about how leather was used, for example.
Around 2,000 BCE, Egyptian faïence, the oldest glazed soapstone ornaments, was beginning to be replaced by a completely “synthetic” material, glass.
White sand was mixed with natron, a naturally occurring form of sodium carbonate, and shaped and heated so that the whole mass was fused.
Blue glaze was applied to this synthetic core. The fusion of the quartz and soda with the admixture of a little lime to make the concoction stable is pretty much how we still make glass today.
The Mesopotamian makers didn’t even know that they needed to add lime to ensure a stable glass, because the lime was already there in the other raw materials.
The synthetic (glass) core (for taking the blue glaze) could be overheated and molten and many examples have survived where the heating ceased just before the core melted and became a shapeless form.
It is probable that the discovery of glass came from seeing the faïence and core (glass) melt into a blob too many times.
A little before 2,000 BCE, true glasses appeared in Mesopotamia, but the glassmakers weren’t sure at first just what they had.
Instead of molding the new material while it was hot, they treated glass at first as if it were a precious decorative stone and mostly cut and polished it while it was cold.
There were many experiments and we soon see a small amount of lead in the glazes on the faïence.
The effect of lead in a glaze or a glass is to give it a greater clarity and brilliance. Who was the first person to add lead to glass? We don’t know, but she may have been a potter since she would have been used to adding lead to her ceramics glazes. From about 1,500 BCE on, lead is not used as a metal (which is too soft for weapons and too, er, “ugly” for jewelry) but as an ingredient in glass, pottery and even bronzes. Lead is a medium. Only now, in the first decades of the 21st century are we finally ridding ourselves of this very useful but very poisonous material.
Lead, aside from adding brilliance, materially altered the cooling behavior of the glass. Glass without lead will shrink and crack as it cools, but the addition of a large quantity of lead will significantly decrease shrinkage, allowing the maker to, say, apply a glaze to an earthenware surface.
The Mesopotamians probably became fully aware of the benefits of lead a bit before 1,000 BCE. The Gate of Ishtar has that shining, glorious beauty because the ceramic tiles were glazed with lead.
In Egypt and Mesopotamia (which, always remember, is not a culture but a geographical place of many cultures) glassmaking became increasingly sophisticated.
Small glass bottles in both areas were made by dipping a friable core of sand and some organic adhesive into a crucible of molten glass and then the friable core was broken out.
Another way to make a small bottle began with that disposable core and then bits of broken glass and finely ground glass material covered the core. The whole was then inserted into the hot oven for fusion
In both methods the core was extracted at the end of the operation leaving a hollow glass bottle.
Copper ores gave a turquoise hue to the final product, and cobalt blue (another copper ore) gave a darker shade.
Iron ores, as we have seen, provided yellows and reds, and the addition of tinstone resulted in a white, opaque glass.
Threads of differently colored glass could be roped in delicate patterns on the surface of the new object and, while still hot and plastic, could be rolled gently over the flat surface, making beautiful , fluid patterns that would last forever.
The glass unguent bottle was a familiar object in the wealthier homes of Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The small bottles had other uses. In Cyprus, people have found many small glass containers shaped like the dried head of an opium poppy.
Not just any opium poppy, but one that has been slit and bears the scar where the papaverous juice has flowed out to relieve the pains of our passage through this life.
This was the aspirin bottle of that time. Opium was taken, and still is taken, to relieve hangovers, headaches, menstual cramps and a myriad of other ills.
Opium was even used to keep the baby quiet.
Many, many of these scar faced glass bottles have been found in graves to alleviate the longueurs of a passage to another world.
Talking of other worlds, I’m going to visit one now and do some playing.
Bon voyage till next week.
Origin: 1895–1900; zero + th
Zeroth can be kindergarten. It’s the 0th dimension. The ordinal number before the first. The zeroth.
January 0th is another name for 31 December.
Clara Bellino and Charlie Watts
Being numbered zero in a series; also : Zero 1 the zeroth power of a number.
Two blondes walked into a bar and started arguing about whether an order-of-magnitude estimate is sometimes also called a zeroth order approximation, and the bartender says, “What is this, some kind of joke?”
Rearrange the letters to spell out an important part of the human body which is even more useful when erect. PNESI The people who answer SPINE will be familiar with the zeroth law.
The zeroth law states that if two systems are each in thermal equilibrium with a third system, they are also in thermal equilibrium with each other.
Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
You’re supposed to respect your elders, but its getting harder and harder for me to find any now.
A and C are in equilibrium following the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics.
Irony is the opposite of wrinkly.
Zero-based numbering is numbering in which the initial element of a sequence is assigned the index 0, rather than the index 1 as is typical in everyday circumstances.
A rabbi was suddenly possessed by a wave of mystical rapture, and threw himself onto the ground before the Ark proclaiming, “Lord, I’m Nothing!”
Seeing this, the cantor felt profoundly moved by similar emotions. He too, threw himself down in front of the Ark, proclaiming, “Lord, I’m Nothing!”
Then, way in the back of the synagogue, the janitor threw himself to the ground, and he too shouted, “Lord, “I’m Nothing.”
The rabbi turns to the cantor and whispers, “Look who thinks he’s Nothing!”
In some cases, an object or value that does not (originally) belong to a given sequence, but which could be naturally placed before its initial element, may be termed the zeroth element.
There is a remote tribe that worships the number zero. Is nothing sacred?
What do you get when you cross a pigeon and a zero? A flying none.
In some mathematical contexts, zero-based numbering can be used without confusion, when ordinal forms have well established meaning with an obvious candidate to come before “first”; for instance a “zeroth derivative” of a function is the function itself, obtained by differentiating zero times.
Nothing is better than this.
Zeroth: The impression that you get from someone before you actually meet them, including impressions made by clothes, style, and rumors.
From what she was wearing and what I heard about her, the zeroth impression I got was that she was a hard case, but when I met her she was intelligent, decent and kind.
Reince Priebus dismissed any controversy over Mitt Romney’s crack about President Barack Obama’s birth certificate as “nothing” and called on the political class to learn to take a joke.
A zeroth law is usually so important that the other laws cannot function without it, yet so obvious that nobody thought it needed stating.
Isaac Asimov’s Zeroth Law of Robotics: A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm.
Good luck on that one. That’s a dream, and, I hope, a reality. It’s only a matter of time before computers surpass us in intelligence and ability. We can only hope that they develop an equal abitlity in ethics and morality, although if they are copying our ethics and morality, we should shudder.
Let us hope that the machines are kinder to us than we have been to each other, although, why should we deserve such treament?
Anyone who has read the slightest amount of our history knows that we have no basis for begging for mercy from a stronger power as computers will be, and sooner than we think.
What may we offer up to the sweet goddess of the universe that she should assure us of any kind treatment whatsoever? Can you think of anything?
What did 0 say to 8 ? Nice belt!
How do you insult a mathematician? You say: “Your brain is smaller than any ε > 0″
Life is complex: it has both real and imaginary components.
Why must President Obama prove who he is and where he was born? Be honest and give your answer.
If it’s zero degrees outside today and it’s supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?
There are 10 kinds of mathematicians in the world. Those who understand binary and those who don’t.
Angles: I’m not trying to be obtuse, but you’re acute.
I am equivalent to the Empty Set when you aren’t with me.
What is the shortest mathematicians joke? Let epsilon be smaller than zero.
What caused the Big Bang? God divided by zero.
A mathematician is a blind person in a dark room looking for a black cat that isn’t there.
A mathematician, a physicist and an engineer were traveling through Scotland on a train when they saw a black sheep. “Aha,” says the engineer, “I see that Scottish sheep are black.” ”Hmm,” says the physicist, “you mean that some Scottish sheep are black.” ”No,” says the mathematician, “all we know is that there is at least one sheep in Scotland, and that at least one side of that one sheep is black.”
How are dogs and marine biologists alike? Dog wag their tails and biologists tag their whales.
Why can’t a gorilla play a guitar? She’s too sensitive.
She looked at the score and it said “tacet,” so she took it.
How do guitar players generally greet each other? Hi, I’m better than you. (That’s supposed to be a joke.)
What happened to the elephant who ran away with the circus? The police made her bring it back.
A museum visitor was admiring a tyrannosaurus fossil, and asked a nearby museum employee how old it was. “That skeleton is sixty-five million and three years, two months and eighteen days old,” the employee replied. “How can you know that so specifically?” she asked. “Well, when I started working here, I asked a scientist the exact same question, and he said it was sixty-five million years old—and that was three years, two months and eighteen days ago.”
A solar panel and a windmill walked into a bar full of oil men, and were never seen again.
How do you feel about windmills? Big fan.
What’s worse than raining cats and dogs? Hailing taxis.
Why did the philharmonic disband? Too much sax and violins.
Hey, this is in Seine!
Fowl play: How do you identify a bald eagle? He has a comb over.
What happened to the lab tech when she fell into the lens grinder? She made a spectacle of herself.
He stopped her because she was going too slow. “But, officer, the sign said 21.” ”That’s the highway number, ma’am.” ”Oh, I’m glad you didn’t see me five minutes ago. I was on 205.”
Nobody is perfect until you fall in love with her.
Who was that piccolo I saw you with last night? That was no piccolo, that was my fife.
What’s the difference between an electric guitar and a chain saw? Chainsaws sound better in small ensembles.
These pots were smoked on the kiln floor.
Hey, is that my cheese? That’s nacho cheese!
She worked hard all of her life to be known, and now she wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.
For every truth there is an ear somewhere to receive it. For every love there is a heart somewhere to receive it. For every beauty there is an eye somewhere to see it.
Our Lord was a shoving leopard, I mean, a loving shepherd.
Then there was Pam, too smart to be a ham, too beautiful for Sam, could have kissed her, but I missed her, damn!
Ham and Eggs: A day’s work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.
English muffins aren’t English, French fries aren’t French. Sweetmeats are sweet, Sweetbreads are meat.
A vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
String quartet: a good violinist, a bad violinist, an ex-violinist, and someone who hates violinists, all getting together to complain about composers.
Guy can’t find the necktie he needs to get into the club. In desperation he throws a set of jumper cables around his neck. Bouncer says, “Well, you can come in but don’t start anything.”
You know you’re a roller coaster enthusiast when some guy screams “You S.O.B!” and You instantly think “huh, Son of Beast, where?
Much unnecessary labor is involved in the number of demisemiquavers. We suggest that many of these could be rounded up to the nearest semiquaver thus saving practice time for the individual player and rehearsal time for the entire ensemble.
Two things necessary to keep a redhead happy. One is to let her think she is having her own way, and the other is to let her have it.
I hate those little Russian dolls. They’re so full of themselves.
A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history – with the possible exception of handguns and tequila.
“Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” – A film company’s verdict on Fred Astaire’s 1928 screen test.
“Brain work will cause women to go bald.” Berlin professor 1914
I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go read a book
If god had intended us to drink champagne, she would have given us stomachs.
A kiss is persecution for the child, ecstasy for the youth and an homage for the old.
Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in vodka.
I always forget faces, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.
A kiss is the contraction of mouth due to the expansion of the heart.
Harvard Business School announced that, in recognition of his massive tax cuts coupled with rising costs of war, they were awarding President Bush an Honorary Doctorate in Deep Doo-Doo Economics.
A kiss is a process which builds a solid bond between two dynamic objects.
What do you call bears with no ears? B.
A Chinese man walks into a shop with a parrot on his shoulder, and the shopkeeper says, “Hey, where’d you get that?” and the parrot says, “In China. They must have a billion of them there.”
Dick Cheney was riding on a camel and he stopped at a small oasis. He got off the camel, lifted its tail and looked at the camel’s butt. A guy comes over and says, “What are you doing?” Cheney replies, “About two miles back I heard someone say, ‘Look at the two assholes on that camel.’”
Elephant to naked man: How can you pick up peanuts with that thing?
Two goats out behind a movie studio eating old movie film: “Pretty good, huh?” says one to the other. ”Yeah, but I prefer the book.”
A thief held up a man at gunpoint: Give me your money. You cannot do this. I am a congressman. Thief says: In that case, give me my money.
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a while. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.
I love you once, I love you twice, I love you more than beans and rice.
A kiss is the juxtaposition of two orbicularisoris muscles in the state of contraction.
My husband and I married for better or worse. He couldn’t do better and I couldn’t do worse.
How do you make a hot dog stand? Steal her chair.
She walked up to the bartender and asked for a double entendre, so he gave her one.
So, why was Wolgang Amadeus Mozart a little scratchy about his chickens? They kept saying “Bach, bach, bach, bach, BACH!”
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has charged a man with going deer hunting with a handgun in a Wal-Mart parking lot. He is being charged with reckless endangerment, but may plead guilty to the lesser charge of being a redneck.
How many books have you read in your life? How should I know? I’m not dead yet.
“The Beatles? They’re on the wane.” The Duke of Edinburgh in Canada, 1965. (His Grace was perhaps a few crumbs short of a crouton.)
Ashley Judd announced she will not be running for Senate in Kentucky against Mitch McConnell. And Mitch McConnell announced he will not be co-starring in any romantic comedies.
Remember George Bush’s plan to put a man on Mars? Why not? It’s not like we had an enormous debt or failing economy or anything like that.
Collect stacks of paint brochures and hand them out as religious tracts.
A bartender is just a pharmacist with a limited inventory.
The gene pool could use a little chlorine.
VODKA : It’s not just for breakfast anymore.
Smile. It’s the second best thing you can do with your lips.
I got this ukulele for my husband. Good trade!
A kiss is the shortest distance between two lips.
Why do elephants drink so much? To try to forget.
North Korea is now threatening the United States with all-out war. What did Dennis Rodman say to these people? What did he do?
Who wrote Huckleberry Locomotive? ChooChoo Twain.
They who drink beer will think beer.
Cop: How high are you? No, no, officer, it’s Hi! How are you?
What happened when the bomb detecting dog wrote her autobiography? It shot to the top of the best smeller list.
What’s harder to catch the faster you run? Your breath.
Come on, feet, start walking.
Why is an elephant big, gray and wrinkly? Because, if she were small, triangular and plastic she would be a guitar pick.
I have actually sung onstage with this estimable person. She’s the one who should have played Janis Joplin in the film, but, alas and alack, it didn’t happen.
Convincing my dog that I really threw the ball is the closest I will get to being a real magician.
A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.
People smile in the same language.
A kiss is the reaction of the interaction between two hearts.
How can you tell the difference between an elephant and a grape? The grape is purple.
We’ll see you next week.
How Latin Became French
The Romans left their language behind everywhere they went. They didn’t force anyone to learn it. Everyone wanted to speak Latin, the language of opportunity and success.
In time, Latin, became Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Romanian.
And also Catalan, Occitan, Provençal, Languedocien, Romanche, Corsican, Wallon, Venetian and Sicilian.
Rome began as a muddy, swampy village surrounded by the brilliant Etruscan civilization on one side and the no less prestigious Greek colonies on the other.
The history of Rome begins like a fairy tale with a prince and a goddess and continues with legendary stories and historical realities.
Aeneas ( Αἰνείας, Aineías, derived from Greek Αἰνή meaning “to praise”), the son of the prince Anchises, and Venus Aphrodite, brings his colony from Troy to Italy, as Virgil tells us in Book One of the Aeneid.
Two newborns, Romulus and Remus, are abandoned along the Tiber and suckled by a she wolf. Romulus kills Remus and becomes the first king of Rome.
There is a rape of young women from the nearby Sabine people. The women are kidnapped to populate Rome.
A great sewer (the Cloaca Maxima) is built to drain the marshes and the Forum is created, which becomes the center of Roman life.
There is a revolution (509 BCE) and the monarchy is abolished to make way for the Republic. The government is headed by two consuls elected by the citizenry and advised by a senate. A constitution based on the separation of powers and checks and balances is developed. Public offices are held for one year, and dates in Roman history are often stated to be when so and so was consul.
The Republic will last for five centuries (from the 6th to the first century BCE) to be succeeded by the Empire which will also last for five centuries until the fall of the Western Empire in 476 CE. The Empire’s beginning is usually dated from the declaration of Julius Caesar as permanent dictator in 44 BCE.
Rome conquered Transalpine Gaul (Provincia Narbonensis now called Provence) in 120 BCE and northern Gaul in 58 – 50 BCE, so the Romans were in Gaul longer than they were anywhere else.
Romans were farmers in the beginning and their language was based in the soil. The verb CERNERE (to see, to discern), for example, originally meant “sift.”
COLERE or INCOLERE which is found in the word “agricola,” farmer, originally meant cultivate, but Caesar uses it in the opening sentence of his book to mean “live” or “inhabit.”
Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres: unam quarum Belgae incolunt. All Gaul is divided into three parts: one of which the Belgians inhabit.
The verb PUTARE originally meant prune or trim. Look where it is now: compute, dispute, repute, deputy, putative.
DELIRARE originally meant to leave the LIRA, the furrow. The word became delirium, delirious, délirer. That’s leaving the furrow with a vengeance.
RIVALIS was an adjective for RIVUS, the bank of a river ( rive gauche). Two people who shared the water in that river were rivals.
A PAGINA was a grape arbor, a group of vines arranged in a rectangle. Then it became a page of papyrus, a page containing one column of writing.
LIBER (book) originally was the tissue between the bark and the tree. The first books in Europe were written on “beechen” tablets. (Buch in German originally meant the beech tree as does our “book.”)
LEGERE Cueillir To pick, pluck, gather, harvest. This word LEGERE later took on the meaning of levy, draft, and a LEGIO (legion) is called that because the soldiers were levied upon the general population.
The past participle of LEGERE is LECTUS, so all of the elect, lecture, dialect, select, lectern, collect meanings come from LEGERE also.
LEGERE became the word for “read.” Lire, leer, leggere (Italian). When you read, you are harvesting words and meanings.
The people in France (Gallia, Gaul) finally spoke Latin, of course, but before they did they loaned some of their words to the Romans. CARRUS (a chariot with four wheels) was Gallic, as was BENNA, a kind of wagon with four wheels, which became benne the word in French for “bucket” or “scoop.”
Other Gallic words brought into Latin were ALAUDA, lark, alouette; BECCUS, beak; CAMBIARE, exchange, barter (which became “buy” in Italian and Spanish).
BRACAE, breeches, britches, pants. The Romans didn’t wear them, but the Celts did. They lived in a colder climate. The word became brache in Italian and bragas in Spanish. In modern French it’s braies.
There were two Latins, the Latin of the intellectuals URBANITAS and the Latin of the streets and fields RUSTICITAS.
The Latin of Cicero (3 January 106 BCE – 7 December 43 BCE) was a dead language even when it was alive. There was an agreement not to change it, and, remarkably, no one changed it for centuries. I can read Latin from the time of Cicero, but can only read my own language, English, in Beowulf , written almost a thousand years later, with great difficulty when I can read it at all.
RUSTICITAS, the Latin language of the people, changed constantly all through Roman history.
The extensive use of elements from vernacular speech by the earliest authors (Plautus, for example) and inscriptions of the Roman Republic make it clear that the original, unwritten language of the Roman monarchy was an only partially deducible predecessor to vulgar Latin. Very early on, this sermo rusticus (also known as sermo plebeius, sermo vulgaris, sermo cotidianus or just sermo usualis) already had many of the features of French, Spanish, Italian and the rest.
Here are some pairs of words that have the same meaning from upper and lower Latin. Guess which ones came down into French: AEQUOR and MARE (sea); AGER and CAMPUS (field); CRUOR and SANGUIS (blood); EQUUS and CABALLUS (horse); LETUM and MORS (death); SIDUS and STELLA (star); TELLUS and TERRA (terrain, earth, soil); MAGNUS and GRANDIS (big); FERRE and PORTARE (to carry, to transport). This would be easier to tell with Spanish or Italian. With French this is a little harder to see because French has changed more than any other Romance language. In fact, French is the most Germanic of the Romance languages. The very word “France” comes from the Franks, a Germanic tribe.
For the word “house,” the Romans had at least four terms: DOMUS (domicile) was the house and everything in it. AEDES (edifice) just meant the building itself. VILLA denoted a farm or agricultural property, and CASA was a cabin or a (thatched) cottage. Which term came down into the Romance languages? The humblest, of course. CASA is exactly the same in Portuguese, Italian and Spanish and in French when you say “chez nous,” you are using the Gallic form of CASA.
When I lived in New York, there was a restaurant around the corner from me called La Chaumière, which is the exact French translation of the Latin CASA.
There are books, or tablets, really, from Roman times where people are taught what and what not to say.
One of the most well known is the Appendix Probi, which reads like a schoolmaster’s spelling correction book. It would be as if today a teacher published a manual with some of the following strictures: say is not, don’t say ain’t; say You gave it to whom, don’t say You gave it to who; say Where is that? don’t say Where is that at? ; say He and I did it, don’t say Him and me did it; say between her and me, don’t say between her and I. (I hate to write these and I can feel the pain of the person who wrote the Appendix Probi. It’s a losing battle, and it always was.)
These correction books are a vivid snapshot of a language in evolution. Say VIR (man) not VYR. Say SPECULUM (mirror) not SPECLUM. Say VINEA (vine) don’t say VINIA.
Say COLUMNA (column) not COLOMNA. Say NUNQUAM (never) don’t say NUNQUA. Say HOSTIAE don’t say OSTIAE (proof that the H was already beginning to disappear.)
Città della Pieve City of the People
Say RIVUS (bank of a river) not RIUS (“river” in Spanish is “rio.”); Say PLEBES not PLEVIS (b and v were already beginning to be confused. Big Brother played in an Umbrian town called Città della Pieve. Pieve is what PLEBES, people, had become by the time we got there. (The LATIN L became I in Italian. Clara = Chiara.)
Say CIVITAS (city) not CIVITÀT (ciudad is Spanish for city) and certainly not CITTÀ. Say AQUA not ACQUA. Say PAUPER MULIER (poor woman, pauvre femme) not PAUPERA MULIER (changing third declension adjectives and pronouns to the first and second declensions).
Île de la Cité WAS Paris for a very long time. Nôtre Dame was begun in 1163. In 1963, I stood in a large group of people right about here and we heard and saw a son et lumière presentation of the catheral’s 800 year old history. In Latin her name would be Nostra Domina.
The accent circonflexe in French very often tells you that an s was there originally: île, hôte, août, hâte, arrêt, bête, fête, forêt. Put an s into each of these words and you will see very quickly what they mean.
For a linguist these prescriptive “corrections” are a delight, because in almost every case, what the people are taught NOT to say is what they are actually saying (otherwise why bother to correct them?) and these “mistakes” will be passed down into French and the other daughters of Latin.
Some rules from these early prescriptive wordbooks: Say AURIS, don’t say ORICLA. Say FRIGIDA, don’t say FRICDA. Say CALIDA, don’t say CALDA. Say MENSA, don’t say MESA. These rules show you what people were saying (and spelling) then.
Guess which forms came down into the Romance Languages? MESA, you know, if you live in the Southwest of the United States. ORICLA became oreille, oreja. FRICDA became froid. CALDA became chaud.
A thoughtful person might be encouraged here to think of terms and forms that are forbidden in English today, and to consider how our own language is evolving.
Comparatives in Latin: DOCTUS is wise, knowing, learned. DOCTIOR is more wise, more knowing, more learned. DOCTISSIMUS is the most learned.
In French, however, these comparatives were made by using Latin MAGIS (more) and PLUS (plus). More than my own life. Docte. Plus docte. Le plus docte.
Je n’en ai plus. I just don’t have any more. That’s it, I just can’t do any more.
Adverbs: IN SIMUL ensemble, AB ANTE avant, DE EX dès
When my wife Elise is in Germany, she can be heard to say, “Den Schlüssel der Toilette, bitte?” and the person at the gas station will say, “Der Schlüssel ist hier.” When Elise asks for the key to the bathroom, she uses the accusative case, because implied in her request is Ich will (I want the key to the bathroom), because “key” is the object of the sentence. The woman answers, “The key is here (der Schlüssel) which is the nominative case because “key” is the subject of the sentence.
German is an inflected language. The words can change form according to what function they perform. It’s the key to another world.
In English we have cases too, although we don’t call them that, and they are mostly seen in pronouns. He goes to the store. “He” is in the nominative case. He took his book. “His” is in the genitive case. I saw him. “Him” is in the accusative case. He, his, him are all referring to the same person, but the words change according to their function.
So, English is an inflected language too, but not as inflected as German, and neither of them is as inflected as Latin. You have probably noticed that “whom” is disappearing, so that dative/accusative case will be gone forever when the last person says it.
In Latin, for “Flavia picks a rose,” you can say Rosam Flavia leget. Or you can say Flavia rosam leget. Or you can say Leget Flavia rosam, or even Leget rosam Flavia, or Flavia leget rosam. They all mean Flavia picks a rose and the word order is not important because Flavia is in the nominative case and she is the subject of the sentence. Rosam is in the accusative case, and, wherever rosam is in the sentence, it will always be rose as the object of the sentence.
Similarly, to say “Flavia loves the color of the rose,” you can say Flavia colorem rosae amat, or Rosae colorem Flavia amat, or Colorem rosae Flavia amat or Amat Flavia rosae colorem. They all mean Flavia loves the color of the rose. This is Classical Latin, the language of Cicero and Caesar. The word order (syntax) is unimportant because each word has an ending that tells its function. Flavia is the subject of the sentence. Amat is the verb. Colorem is the object. And rosae is the genitive. It means “of the rose” no matter where it is in the sentence.
In the Latin of the street (RUSTICITAS), however, the endings of words, because they were almost always unaccented, began to be lost with people speaking quickly, mumbling, being drunk, being excited, being lazy… the endings dropped away early. So now what happens to the syntax? The order of the words in the sentence becomes more than important; it becomes absolutely necessary to the meaning of the phrase.
Paulus Petrum verberat means Paul hits Peter. It’s the same if you say Petrum Paulus verberat, but not if the endings in Paulus and Petrum both become -u as they did early on in street Latin. If Paulus and Petrum become Paulu and Petru, then Paulu has to go first and Petru has to follow the verb for the sentence to be most clear. Paulu verberat Petru. And the -t in verberat was lost early too, so the sentence looks like Paulu verbera Petru. This is beginning to look a lot like Spanish, French or Italian, isn’t it?
Flavia rosam amat (Flavia loves the rose) now begins to be said Flavia ama rosa, and if you say Flavia loves that rose, the sentence, even in Roman times, can be said Flavia ama(t) (il)la(m) rosa(m). Flavia ama la rosa. Then the sentence looks very much as it would in Spanish or Italian. Flavia aime la rose, as the people in Gallia would say.
In Classical Latin, murus (wall) is the subject of the sentence (nominative). Muri means “of the wall” or wall’s (genitive). Murum is the wall as the object of the sentence (accusative) and muro means “to the wall” (dative). So, there are four cases, murus, muri, murum, muro.
By the third century BCE, people in the street were saying muro(s), muri, muro, muro, and they weren’t pronouncing the s in the first case, so the word sounded the same in all the cases. We know this because of writing on tombstones, graffiti, and other places where uneducated people would write. And now to emphasize the words they would say THAT wall, rather than just wall. That = ille in Latin, and so they said (Il)le mur. Le mur is the wall in French.
Here is a message on a tombstone, date unknown: Hic quescunt duas matres, duas filias numero tres facunt et advenas II parvolas qui suscitabit cuius condicio est. Jul. Herculanus. There is a joke here, “two mothers, two daughters make the number three.” OK, it’s not a big joke, but it’s on a tombstone, where jokes are in short supply. Let’s be grateful.
There is a later inscription on a tomb in Gallia: Hic requiiscunt men bra ad duas frates Gallo et Fidencio qui fo erunt fili Magno… Both of these inscriptions show that the old declension (case) system was disappearing and would soon disappear altogether.
So, now, articles became necessary. In late Latin the definite article (the) was taken from the word for “that” ille, illa. For the indefinite article (a) the word for “one” was used. Unus, una. “The widow” is la vidua and “a widow” is una vidua. La veuve, une veuve.
Now prepositions become important. They are needed to show the relationships of the words to each other. The dative case is gone, so you have to say “to the wall,” as you do in English. Or “on the table,” or “with the drink.” The world had changed. (That’s the world… in the bubbles.)
Frederick the Great of Prussia and Voltaire made a bet who could write the shortest sentence in Latin. Frederick wrote Eo rus. (I’m going to the country.) Voltaire replied I (Go).
The French philosopher Jacques Derrida received a doctorate honoris causa from Oxford University and he wrote his discours de réception in Latin.
There were several words for “blonde” or “white” in Latin. Our friend Flavia above was so named because she was blonde (FLAVUS yellow). Also ALBUS meant white as did CANDIDUS but the French took their word BLANC from the Germanic languages. The Romans, too, borrowed “blond” from the Germans very early and Roman women bought great quantities of blonde hair from the north.
There were four or five ways to say “blue” in the mother language: CAERULEUS denoted the color of a cloudless sky. CYANEUS was a darker blue. CAESIUS, a gray-blue, a greenish blue, especially used for the color of eyes, and then there was GLAUCUS “between green and pale blue,” and VIOLACEUS, blue tending to violet, but in about the seventh century CE, the French borrowed *blao from the Germanic language.
So, when did French become truly French and not a mélange of Latin and Gallic? One boundary date might be the Oaths of Strasbourg (842 CE) taken by two grandsons of Charlemagne, Louis le Germanique and Charles le Chauve to swear assistance and fealty to each other against their brother Lothaire.
These Oaths were written in the langue romane and the langue germanique. The only copy we have is from a century later, but the document is invaluable for linguists.
Pro deo amur et pro christian poblo et nostro commun saluament d’ist di en auant, in quant Deus sauir et podir me dunat, si saluarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo, et in aiudha et in cadhuna cosa, si cum om per dreit son fradra saluar dift, in o quid il mi altresi fazet, et ab Ludher nul plaid nunquam prindrai qui meon uol cist meon fradre Karle in damno sit.
In today’s French this would be: Pour l’amour de Dieu et pour le salut commun du peuple chrétien et le nôtre, à partir de ce jour, autant que Dieu m’en donne le savoir et le pouvoir, je soutiendrrai mon frère Charles de mon aide et en toute chose, comme on doit justement soutenir son frère, à condition qu’il m’en fasse autant, et je ne prendrai jamais aucun arrangement avec Lothaire, qui, à ma volonté, soit au détriment de mon frère Charles.
This is the way the Oath reads in la langue germanique: in godes minna ind in thes christânes folches ind unsêr bêdhero gehaltnissî fon thesemo dage frammordes sô fram sô mir got geuuizci indi mahd furgibit sô haldih thesan mînan bruodher sôso man mit rehtu sînan bruodher scal in thiu thaz er mig sô sama duo indi mit ludheren in nohheiniu thing ne gegango the mînan uillon imo ce scadhen uuerdhên
oba karl then eid then er sînemo bruodher ludhuuuîge gesuor geleistit indi ludhuuuîg mîn hêrro then er imo gesuor forbrihchit ob ih inan es iruuenden ne mag noh ih noh thero nohhein then ih es iruuenden mag uuidhar karle imo ce follusti ne uuirdhit.
In la langue romane, notice that the original is much more concise than the modern French. This is because of the survival of some cases and other similarities to Latin.
The copyist seems to have hesitated over the written form of final unaccented vowels. For aiudha (help) and cadhuna (each), he writes a.
Sometimes a, sometimes e: fradra, fradre (brother).
Sometimes e. sometimesd o: Karle, Karlo (Charles).
In Latin, the future of LAVARE was lavabo, lavabis. In French (and similarly in the other daughters of Latin) the verb “to have” (avoir) was used to make the future: laver + ai = I will wash; laver + as = you will wash; laver + a = she, he, it will wash; laver + (av)ons = we will wash; laver + (av)ez = you will wash; laver + ont = they will wash.
Sometimes a Latin word would come into French twice, once very early and then another time very late. The same thing happened with English and, in fact, some of the pairs are the same, such as frail and fragile (frêle et fragile) from FRAGILEM.
SECURITATEM sûreté et sécurité. FABRICAM came into French early as forge and then later as fabrique. FRIGIDUM froid et frigide. GRACILIS grêle et gracile (slender, slim). CADENTIAM chance et cadence. POTIONEM poison et potion. MUSCULUM moule (mussel) et muscle. MONASTERIUM moutier (obsolete) et monastère. MINISTERIUM métier et ministère. TABULAM tôle (sheet metal) et table. CLAVICULAM cheville (ankle) et clavicule. AUGUSTUM août et auguste.
Sometime early in the fifth century CE, Egeria, a Spanish nun, set out to visit as many as possible of the places mentioned in the Bible. This was in effect the first of many, many Christian pilgrimages and she decided to write about what she had seen.
The manuscript was discovered at Arezzo in 1887 by Italian scholar Gamurrini. Egeria’s descriptions of the way she was received by local dignitaries in her travels suggest that her standing in the Church was high.
No other author of her time or for long after wrote in such a lively and conversational style. It is like hearing her talk.`She writes in Latin, but it is a Latin far removed from the villas of Cicero and Caesar. Her language, the syntax, the simplicity, the excessive use of definite and indefinite articles, is well on its way to becoming French, Italian, Spanish. She’s chatty.
Cum ergo descendissimus, ut superius dixi, de ecclesia deorsum, ait nobis ipse sanctus presbyter: ecce ista fundamenta in giro colliculo isto, quae videtis, hae sunt de palatio regis Melchisedech…. Nam ecce ista via, quam videtis transire inter fluvium Iordanem et vicum istum, haec est qua via regressus est sanctus Abraam de caede Codollagomor regis gentium revertens in Sodomis, qua ei occurrit sanctus Melchisedech rex Salem.
When we had gone down from the church, as I said above, the holy priest spoke to us: You see those ruins in the fold of that hill, they are of the palace of king Mechisedech…. That path which you see passing between the river Jordan and the village, that is the way by which holy Abraham came back from the slaughter of Codollogomor, king of the peoples returning to Sodom, where holy Melchisedech king of Salem met him.
She continues: Tunc ego quia retinebam scriptum esse baptizasse sanctum Iohannem in Enon iuxta Salim, requisivi de eo, quam longe esset ipse locus. Tunc ait ille sanctus presbyter: ecce hic est in ducentibus passibus; nam si vis, ecce modo pedibus duco vos ibi. Nam haec aqua tam grandis et tam pura, quam videtis in isto vico, de ipso fonte venit. Tunc ergo gratias ei agere coepi et rogare, ut duceret nos ad locum.
Then because I remembered that it is written that Saint John had been baptizing in Enon near Salem, I asked of him how far away the place was. Then the holy priest said: It is two hundred yards away; if you wish, I will lead you there on foot. The stream which you see in the village, so large and clear, comes from that source. Then I began to thank him and ask that he should take us to the place.
This was a woman who loved to travel and who loved people. Her use of words such as HIC, IPSE, ISTE and ILLE and priest’s use of ECCE are pointing forward to la langue romane. They are attention getting and attention directing devices that are always a feature of ordinary life. Professors and academics are used to being the center of attention, and listened to, but everyday people have to build a few HEY! moments into their speech even to hope to be heard. HIC, IPSE, ISTE, ILLE, ECCE are all look at me words that call for attention.
Egeria would not have been out of place in Chaucer’s collection of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury a thousand years later.
The Gallia of the Romans began to form her own language(s). The names for them were each based on the word “yes.” The languages of the former Gallia Narbonensis (Provence) had a word for “yes” that was originally HOC, “this.” If someone said, “Did you go to the market today,” and you wanted to affirm this, you simply said HOC, this.
In Latin there was no word for “yes.” People simply said “thus,” which was SIC and this evolved into “si.”
In the French of today there is this “si,” but it is only used to contradict a negative statement. If she says, “You weren’t at Monterey, were you?” I can answer, “Si, j’y suis êté.” (Yes, I was there.)
Of course, the Latin SIC (thus) came down into all of the other Romance Languages as the word for “yes.” In Portuguese: Sim. Eu gosto muito. (Yes, I like it a lot.) Spanish: Si, señor. Italian: Ma, si, lo sai che sei più bella della Avril Lavigne, davvero eh! (But, yes, you know it, that you are more beautiful than Avril Lavigne, really, eh?)
In the north of Gallia, which we can almost call France now, the phrase for “yes” was HOC ILLUD, which is something like “this that,” but it meant “yes,” and the language of Gallia Septentrionale, northern France, became known as la langue d’oïl, the language of oui. The language of HOC ILLUD.
In the 9th century romana lingua (the term used in the Oaths of Strasbourg of 842) was the first of the Romance languages to be recognized by its speakers as a distinct language, probably because it was the most different from Latin compared with the other Romance languages.
A good number of the developments that we now consider typical of Walloon, the language spoken in the environs of Belgium, appeared between the 8th and 12th centuries. Walloon “had a clearly defined identity from the beginning of the thirteenth century”. In any case, linguistic texts from the time do not mention the language, even though they mention others in the Oïl family, such as Picard and Lorrain. During the 15th century, scribes in the region called the language “Roman” when they needed to distinguish it. It is not until the beginning of the 16th century that we find the first occurrence of the word “Walloon” in the same linguistic sense that we use it today.
In the south of Gallia, the language was called langue d’oc, the language of HOC, which was how they said “yes” in the South. This speech became known as OCCITAN.
Oc was and still is the southern word for yes, hence the langues d’oc or Occitan languages. The most widely spoken modern Oïl language is French (oïl was pronounced [o.il] or [o.i], which has become [wi], in modern French oui).
Very early on, differences between the languages of the south and north became marked.
These differences still exist today and there have been many movements to make southern dialects (Provençal, languedocien, occitan) into languages in their own right, especially in the 19th century and especially by the writer Frédéric Mistral.
In the South, they said: cantat aqua pratu(m) In the North, it was chante eau près.
By late- or post-Roman times Vulgar Latin had developed two distinctive terms for signifying assent (yes): hoc ille (“this (is) it”) and hoc (“this”), which became oïl and oc, respectively. Subsequent development changed “oïl” into “oui”, as in modern French. The term langue d’oïl itself was first used in the 12th century, referring to the Old French linguistic grouping noted above.
In the 14th century, the Italian poet Dante mentioned the yes distinctions in his De vulgari eloquentia. He wrote in Medieval Latin: “nam alii oc, alii si, alii vero dicunt oil” (“some say ‘oc’, others say ‘si’, others say ‘oïl’”)—thereby distinguishing at least three classes of Romance languages: oc languages. oui languages and si languages.
This is part of the story of the Prodigal Son in various dialects. Modern French: Son fils lui dit alors: Mon père, j’ai péché contre le ciel et contre vous; je ne mérite plus d’être appelé votre fils. Mais le père dit aux serviteurs: Allez vite chercher la plus belle robe et l’en revêtez, mettez-lui au doigt un anneau, des souliers aux pieds. Amenez le veau gras et tuez-le, mangeons et faisons liesse.
And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
And now in Picard, one of the langues d’oïl: Sin fieu ly dit: Min pere, j’ai grament péché conte I’ciel et conte vous; et jenne su pu dinne d’éte apelai vous fieu. Alor I’pére dit à ses gins: Allez vite qére s’première robe et fourez ly su sin dos; mettez ly un aniau au douet et dés solés à ses pieds. Amenés aveucque I’viau cras et tuélle, mingeons et faigeons bonne torche.
Walloon: Et I’fils li diha: Pere, j’a pegchi conte lu ci et conte vos: ju n’so nin digne d’ess loumé vos fils. Mais l’pere diha atou ses siervans: appoirto bin vite su pu belle robe et tapo li so l’coir et metto li onne bague et des solés èze pis. Et allézo prinde lu cras vai et sul touo et s’magnans et s’fusans gasse.
Morvandiau (Nièvre): Et son fiot ly dié: Men père, y ait pécé conte le ciel et conte vous aitout, y n’ mairite pu d’eitre aipelé voute fiot. Anchitot, le père dié ai sas valots; aiportez vias sai premère robbe et vitez ly, boutez ly enne baigue au det et das soulés dans sas piés. Aimouniez aitout le viau gras et l’tuez: mezons et fions fricot.
And now we go to the langues d’oc. Here is the tale in the dialect of Auvergne: Et son fiot ly dié: Men père, y ait pécé conte le ciel et conte vous aitout, y n’ mairite pu d’eitre aipelé voute fiot. Anchitot, le père dié ai sas valots; aiportez vias sai premère robbe et vitez ly, boutez ly enne baigue au det et das soulés dans sas piés. Aimouniez aitout le viau gras et l’tuez: mezons et fions fricot.
Gascon, the language of Cyrano de Bergerac: E soun hil qu’eou digouc: Moun pay, qu’ey peccat cost’oou ceo é daouant bous: nou souy pas mes digne deou noum de boste hii. Lou pay que digouc a sous baylets: Biste, biste, pourtat sa pruméro raoubo é boutats l’oc; boutats lou la bago aou dit, e caoussats lou. Amiats lou bedet gras, é tuats lou: minjen é hascan uo gran’ hesto.
Provençal as spoken in Marseille: Et soun fieou li diguet: Moun païré aï peccat contro lou ciel et contro de vous, noun siou pas digné d’estre appelat vouestre fieou. Alors, lou péro diguet à seis domestiquos: Adduses sa premiero raoubo, et vestisses lou; mettes-li une bague oou det et de souliers eis peds. Adusés lou vedeou gras et tuas lou, man- gens e faguem boumbanco.
Franco-Provençal (Swiss, Valais, Saint-Maurice: Son meniot la y a det: Mon pere y ai petchia devant le chel et devant vo; ye ne sey pas digno ora d’être appèlo voutrom fi. Mais le père a det a son valets: Apporta ley to de suite sa première roba e la fey bota; metté ley ona baga u dey é dé solar è pia; amènà le vè grà é toa lo; mindzin é fézin granta tchiéra.
These languages still exist.
SUBIUNGO is Latin for “I subjoin,” I add to, and the subjunctive mood is so named because it is primarily used in subordinate clauses. Il faut que tu vienne. (You have to come.) If faut que j’y aille. (It’s necessary that I go there.)
In Latin all conjugations and irregular verbs have four tenses of the subjunctive: present, imperfect, perfect and pluperfect. French normally uses only two of these tenses, although Spanish and Italian and the other linguae romanae rusticae positively revel in all tense subjunctive usage. Quisiera un café, por favor. (I would like a coffee, please.)
When I was young and silly, I used to use the imperfect and pluperfect subjunctive just for laughs: J’aimerais que vous me servissiez 100 F de gasoil.
Or: Madame, réfléchîtes-vous à ma proposition car il faudrait que vous prissiez une décision immédiatement pour que je vous livrasse au plus tôt et que vous fussiez en mesure d’apprécier les services de mon appareil.
At the time I was taking a course in 18th century literature and reading people like Marivaux, Voltaire and madame de Sévigné, all of whom were comfortable with the all the subjunctives and used them in an often humorous and even schpritzy style. (Schpritzy = avec esprit.)
J’étudie la carte du Tendre, je participe aux fêtes galantes, je suis l’observateur “statufié” des tableaux de Watteau… et de Boucher.
In Latin, the past tense is called the “perfect,” because it has been thoroughly done, perfected, finished. I was = fui. You were = fuisti. It was = fuit. In spoken French this perfect past (or passé simple as it is known) is not ordinarily used in speaking, but it is in writing, especially in novels.
There is a French writer named Raymond Queneau. He wrote Zazie dans le métro and many other funny books that play with language.
The first book of his that I read was Exercices de Style where he takes a very simple story and tells it in many different styles: Métaphoriquement, Rétrograde, Surprises, Rêve, Pronostications, Hésitations and so on.
One of the versions of the story is Passé Simple where he uses only that tense. The usual tense for description is the imperfect, so it is strange to read all that Passé Simple.
Ce fut midi. Les voyageurs montèrent dans l’autobus. On fut serré. Un jeune monsieur porta sur sa tête un chapeau entouré d’une tresse, non d’un ruban. Il eut un long cou. Il se plaignit auprès de son voisin des heurts que celui-ci lui infligea. Dès qu’il aperçut une place libre, il se précipita vers elle et s’y assit.
Je l’aperçus plus tard devant la gare Saint-Lazare. Il se vêtit d’un pardessus et un camarade qui se trouva là lui fit cette remarque: il fallut mettre un bouton supplémentaire.
This is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it if you read French, or maybe even if you don’t read French, because it does take that simple tale and tell it over and over again in many different modes, so it is quite educational.
And, speaking of end, here are a couple of trous de culs américains. What they don’t know would fill a number of very large volumes.
Au revoir. À la prochaine.
Wysiwyg is an acronym for one of the most profound statements ever made: What You See Is What You Get. In the wysiwyg editor context the meaning is limited to something like seeing a preview of how your text will appear in print, or the actual print itself. Still, “what you see is what you get,” the name of a song in the 1970s, always struck me as a very deep observation. You can’t understand what you don’t “see.” In fact, obviously, you are not even aware of what you don’t see. One can pass through life and miss so much, and no one is going to see it all, or even most of it. You get what you see, but you can never own what you don’t see. See?
Max Clarke, master photographer, sees a lot.
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because she thought the Beatles looked cool when they did it.
That makes twelve marks a nose. Shit.
Doing a Macy’s ad with Sharrie Gomez.
Let’s see, I can never decide. Am I a has bean, or a never was bean?
My life is nothing but a series of projects, one after the other. Hey! I could make a graphic novel out of it! Naaa! That would be dull.
She heard two Italians talking in the subway: ”Emma come first, then I come. Two asses, they come together. I come again. Two asses they come together again. I come again and pee twice. Then I come again.” ”Hey,” she finally cries, “in this country we don’t talk about our sex lives in public.” ”Sex lives!” says Giovanni, “I’m trying to teach my friend how to spell Mississippi.”
An amateur drummer died and went to heaven. He was waiting outside the pearly gates when he heard the most incredible fast and furious drumming coming from within. Immediately he recognized the playing and rushed to ask St. Peter if that was Art Blakey playing drums inside the gates. St. Peter responded: “No, that’s God. He just thinks he’s Art Blakey.”
She’s writing a note: “Gone Chopin, (have Liszt), Bach in a fugue Minuets.”
“How things are in agricultural circles.” (Germany beginning to industrialize the farm in the 1870s.)
What do you call two guitarists playing in unison? A dream.
Did you hear about the drummer who locked his keys in his car? It took him four hours to get the bass player out.
My friend Antea Salmaso tells me that Renato Brunetta, the former Minister for Public Administration in Italy, is 143 centimeters tall. I am 183 centimeters, so Signore Brunetta is vertically challenged. He recently married Tommasa Giovannoni (also called Titti) who is probably near my height. So “un matrimonio in salita” is an “uphill marriage.” He is saying, “Titti, I ask for your hand,” probably so he can get a lift.
One day two blondes decided to drive to Disney Land. When they saw a sign that said ‘Disney Land left’ they turned around and went home
Well, you can do it if you want, but I don’t go along with being called ‘Mr. Hitchcock.’ I think that’s a lot of crap. I just don’t understand that. If actors want to do that, fine. If they want to be miserable, that’s up to them. I’m not interested. It’s a job. I do the job. I’m certainly not going to make my life miserable just to be in character. It’s a pain in the ass.
We will be testing the speaker system to make sure it will work properly in case of emergency. If you are unable to hear this announcement, please contact us.
I’m broccoli, and I look like a tree. I’m walnut and I look like a brain. I’m a mushroom and I hate this cartoon strip.
Listen, I’m talking to you.
An Indian chief and a cavalry captain climb to the top of a tall hill and look out upon the entire Indian tribe. The captain says amazed, “Those drums are crazy.” The chief says, “I know. It’s not our regular drummer.”
How can you make a trombone sound like a horn? Stick your hand in the bell and play a lot of wrong notes.
Honesty really is the best policy, especially if you have a short memory.
What is the difference between a producer and a chimpanzee? It’s been scientifically proven that chimpanzees are able to communicate with humans.
The musicians for his recording session were assembling at a studio. Everyone had their headphones on, the session was getting underway and he came over the talkback system and said “I need to have total silence!” Just then the drummer on the session played a big crash! Producer says, “Okay who did that?”
A trombone player and an accordion player are playing a New Years’s eve gig at a local club. The place is packed and everybody is absolutely loving the music. Shortly after midnight, the club owner comes up to the duo and says, “You guys sound great .. everybody loves you .. I’d like to know if the two of you are free to come back here next New Year’s eve to play ? The trombone player says “Sure .. we’d love to .. Is it OK if we leave our stuff here ?”
How many scientologists does it take to change a light bulb? Lightbulbs only blow because of their own overts and withholds. We should tie the lightbulb down so it can’t blow, then audit it for missed withholds.
How many scientologists does it take to change a light bulb? None: the lightbulb must find $80,000 dollars to become clear, then it will have the self determinism to change itself. I love you, Nicole.
How do you tell if a record producer is actually dead? Hold out a check (but don’t be fooled: a slight, residual spasmodic clutching action may occur even hours after death has occurred).
Me? I love comics. Me too.
How do you get a guitar player to play softer? You don’t. I was going to say “Put a chart in front of her,” but, let’s face it, you are not going to get a guitar player to turn down, so get over it. It ain’t gonna happen, OK?
I’m a vegetarian. And what do I see here? A carrot!
What You See Is What You Get… Wysiwyg.
What does a Hammond B3 player do in her life’s most tender moments? She puts her Leslie on “slow.”
How it all began: Huh? An erection in my arm?
This is how a violist tells a joke: A guitarist and a percussionist were walking in a park. The percussionist saw a dead crow and said to the violist, “Look, a dead crow.” The drummer looked up and asked, “Where?”
Max Clarke: I saw the light, I saw the light, No more trouble, every thing is right. I saw the light. I saw the light. Praise the Lord, I saw the light.
Was he playing blues? Fuck, yeah. Was he playing intellectual, spiritual requests and demands that still call out to us? Fuck, yeah.
Three violin manufacturers have all done business for years on the same block in the small town of Cremona, Italy. After years of a peaceful co-existence, the Amati shop decided to put a sign in the window saying: “We make the best violins in Italy.” The Guarneri shop soon followed suit, and put a sign in their window proclaiming: “We make the best violins in the world.” Finally, the Stradivarius family put a sign out at their shop saying: “We make the best violins on the block.”
How come the sine wave didn’t see the compressor coming? Because she had a quick attack!
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash, who? Gesundheit!
Why didn’t the Little Drummer Boy get into heaven? Because he woke up the baby, for Christ’s sake.
A musician dies and goes to Heaven, where he is directed to the heavenly night club. Wonderful room, big stage, great musicians. He sees Diz and says, “How’s the gig here?” ”Well, the layout and the equipment are fine, we have gourmet food, the best wines and a little reefer to take the edge off.” ”Cool,” says the new guy. . “There’s just one thing,” Dizzy adds. “God’s got this boyfriend who thinks he can sing….”
Your money or your life. What? You’re pointing a finger at me… Well.. it’s just that I’m a poor guy. Ahh, bad luck comes to everyone. What a pain.
What does a drummer say right before he gets fired? Hey, let’s play this song that I wrote a long time ago with someone who’s dead now and can’t defend herself.
How do you know someone’s a really good guitarist? Don’t worry, he’ll tell you
Woman on the Moon.
Attention: The end of the world in 2012 was canceled in Brazil, because the country didn’t have the infrastructure to support an event of that scale.
A drummer, tired of being ridiculed by other musicians, decides to change instruments. At the music store, he beats up to the sales counter and says, “I’ll take those long wind instruments over there, and those claves on the counter.” After a second, the store clerk says ,“OK, you can have the hookah, but the cell phones have to stay here.”
What do you call someone who has absolutely no sense of rhythm? A percussionist.
A man is walking through the empty quarter in Arabia and he finds a lamp. He picks it up and starts polishing it. A Genie appears: “You get one wish.” The man pauses to think. Here is his chance to make this world a better place. Finally he pulls out a map of the Middle East and says, “These people in the so called Holy Land have been killing and slaughtering and robbing from each other for thousands of years. Can you make peace in the Middle East?” Genie says, “What do I look like, a magician? Give me something I can work with.” The guy tries to think of something that might be within the Genie’s power. ”OK, I know,” he says, “I play in a band back home. The guitar player, could you take his ego down a notch or two?” A long pause. The genie finally says, “OK, OK, let me see that map of the Middle East again.”
How much do the top politicians make?
How do you keep a guitar player from drowning? Take your foot off his head.
They say that black is slimming. Well, I’ve been wearing it for three weeks and I haven’t lost an ounce!
Want it, Josie? Paula, it’s just that I’m on a diet right now.
How is a drummer like a condom? It’s good with one, but it’s a lot better without one.
Max Clarke. What you see is what you get.
What did the centipede say to the Beatles? I want to hold your hand, hand, hand, hand.
I hate income tax. Be a good citizen and pay it with a smile. I tried that but they want money.
How can you double your money? Fold it in half.
I shall be everlastingly in your debt. That’s what I’m afraid of.
What’s the difference between an Uzi and a guitar? The Uzi stops after twenty rounds.
La découverte de Vercingétorix est celle des Gaulois ; elle est l’œuvre d’Amédée Thierry qui publie en 1828, l’Histoire des Gaulois depuis les temps les plus reculés. Vercingétorix, whose father, Celtillus, had been put to death by his own countrymen for seeking to rule all of Gaul, managed to unify the Gallic tribes against the Romans and adopted more current styles of warfare as he dealt with Caesar’s legions.
Bien que suivant au plus près le texte de César (which is in the seventh book of the Gallic Wars), Amédée Thierry en donne une version vivante et romantique qui fit de son ouvrage un immense succès populaire. The revolt that Vercingétorix lead against the Romans began in early 52 BCE while Caesar was raising troops in Cisalpine Gaul, the Italian side of the Alps. Believing that Caesar would be distracted by the turmoil in Rome following the death of Publius Clodius Pulcher, the Carnutes, under Cotuatus and Conetodunus, made the first move, slaughtering any Roman who had settled in their territory.
Puis Henri Martin dans son Histoire de France populaire (1867 à 1875) célèbre sous une veine « nationale » les Gaulois, grands blonds aux yeux bleus, et leurs chefs, dont Vercingétorix, a young nobleman of the Avernian city of Gergovia. Vercingétorix roused his dependents to join the revolt, but he and his followers were expelled by the nobles of the city, including his uncle Gobanito, because they thought that opposing Caesar was too great a risk. Undeterred, Vercingétorix raised an army of the poor, took Gergovia and was hailed as king.
Un autre historien, Rémi Mallet dira : Henri Martin parvient à doter la France et les Français d’ancêtres réels et sympathiques (…). Il réussit à vulgariser et à faire admettre définitivement l’existence de Vercingétorix, who made alliances with other tribes, and having been unanimously given the supreme command of their armies, imposed his authority through harsh discipline.
Vercingétorix adopted the policy of retreating to natural fortifications, and undertook an early example of a scorched earth strategy by burning towns to prevent the Roman legions from living off the land. Vercingétorix and his army won some initial minor engagements with the Roman units led by Caesar and his chief lieutenant (legatus) Titus Labienus.
The Romans captured the capital of the Bituriges, Avaricum (Bourges), killing the entire population of 120,000. The next major battle was at Gergovia, where Vercingétorix defeated Caesar, but the victory cost him many men, including many noblemen. Because of these losses, Vercingétorix retreated and moved to another stronghold Alesia.
You have blasphemed the memory of Vercingétorix! You OK in the head?
In the battle of Alesia (September 52 BCE), Caesar built a fortification around the city to besiege it. However, Caesar’s army was surrounded by the rest of Gaul, and Vercingétorix had summoned his Gallic allies to attack the besieging Romans, so Caesar built yet another outer fortification against the expected relief armies resulting in a doughnut shaped fortification.
The relief came in insufficient numbers (80,000 to 250.000 soldiers) but the attacks did reveal a weak point in the fortifications and the combined forces on the inside and the ouside almost made a breakthrough.
Only when Caesar personally led the last reserves into battle did he finally manage to prevail and conquer. This was one of the decisive battles in the creation of the Roman Empire.
Plutarch describes Vercingétorix surrendering in dramatic fashion, riding his magnificent steed out of Alesia, dismounting before Caesar, stripping himself of his armor and sitting down at his opponent’s feet, where he remained motionless until he was taken away. Well, it’s a good story told by an artist, so let’s leave it that way. The image above is French, of course, and so shows Vercingétorix looming above his conqueror, throwing down his weapons.
At any rate, Vercingétorix was led away into prison, taken to Rome, marched in a victory parade and then executed. Vercingétorix has become in the French mind the one who “stuck it to the man.” Like Boudicca in Britain, Vercingétorix was the one who scared the Romans and gave them one last good battle.
Cénabum is Orléans, Avaricum is Bourges, Lutèce is Paris.
What’s the best thing to play on a guitar? Solitaire.
What do you do if you accidentally run over a drummer? Back up.
AND NOW… A COLLECTION OF INDIVIDUALS WITH LESS THAN ZERO SEX APPEAL AND NOT A LOT TO SAY EITHER:
Mitch, it’s time for you to go.
Into the dustbin of history.
His proposed budget would have cut $400,000 MORE dollars off the tax bill of people who are wealthier than anyone has been ever before.
Thinks that people don’t like him. He’s right, they don’t.
This genius thinks that more guns in school would be a good idea.
I can’t even believe this one.
Grasp of history and current events is very weak. Thinks “America” began because of socialism. Doesn’t even know what socialism is. We have socialism in this country. Most of it is for the rich, but still…
Looks stupid, but looks aren’t everything. Oh, wait, in this case they are.
Thinks American conservatism is love.
No comment. QUITE A GROUP, ISN’T IT?
Now this is more like it.
A critic is like a eunuch. He knows exactly how it should be done.
The guitar is a musical instrument the only thing worse than which is two.
What was it the English teacher asked me and I said “no.” If “you killed someone by accident, would you feel bad?”
You really have to exert yourself for a good cartoon. The best ideas have already been ripped off.
Curtis, you’ve done your homework, right?
glissando: a technique adopted by string players for difficult runs.
conductor: a musician who is adept at following many people at the same time.
And then, you’re fired!
transposition: the act of moving the relative pitch of a piece of music that is too low for the basses to a point where it is too high for the sopranos.
They tell me that we women are superior in everything: health, reliability, road maintenance.
Diminished fifth: an empty bottle of Jack Daniels. Perfect fifth: a full bottle of Jack Daniels.
Amy Berg, Alex Rodriguez and Olivia Fougirol in our old house in Lagunitas.
Reading the Koran.
A 440: the motorway that runs around London.
Cut Time: when everyone else is playing twice as fast as you are.
And wouldn’t you like to be in that room?
perfect pitch: the smooth coating on a freshly paved road.
Why did the drummer marry the accordion player? Upward mobility.
plague: a collective noun, as in “a plague of conductors.”
Why do guitar players get antsy when they see the Kama Sutra? All those positions!
What’s the difference between the first and last desk of a viola section? Half a measure.
Stops: something Bach didn’t have on his organ
Allegro: leg fertilizer
Accidentals: wrong notes
augmented fifth: a liter
What’s a tuba for? 1 1/2″ by 3 1/2″ unless you request a “full cut.”
He was a disaster as a president and the runt of his family. On the other hand, he had a real gift for comic timing, and he is probably the only world leader ever to paint himself naked. His paintings are easily the most non conventional that any president has done. Life put him in the wrong place. Too bad for him and too bad for us.
If you threw a guitar player and a singer off of a cliff, which would hit the ground first? The guitar player. The singer would have to stop halfway down to ask directions.
I love you madly. Have a good week.
People often ask me, What was the secret weapon that you brought to Washington that enabled you to leave office with a budget surplus? I always answer them in one word: Arithmetic.
When I open a folder on my desktop there is a space in it for eighteen images. You can change the number if you want, but the default position is eighteen. So I am accustomed to multiples of eighteen and have learned to multiply that number quickly. One of the shortcuts is that you add 2 to the first digit and subtract 2 from the second to get the next 18 multiple. Thus, the next number after 18 is 36. Add 2 to the first digit and subtract 2 from the second. The number after 36 is add 2 to the first digit and subtract 2 from the second, 54, and so on.
But then I finally realized, do I have to have an exact number? What if I just round it off to 20? My life became a lot simpler after that.
If I want the exact number it’s much easier to think 5 times 20 is 100 and then take off 10 to get what 5 times 18 really is. 90. That’s easier to me than thinking about what 5 x 18 equals.
I’ve always been very lazy, especially with numbers, and rounding them off has been a lifelong pleasure.
In a restaurant, if the bill is, say, $42.20, I leave an 8 dollar tip. 2 times 4. Close enough to $8.44, the actual 20% tip, and much faster to figure.
If the bill were $42.60, I would leave $9 because 42.60 is closer to 45 than to 40. I round off to make the calculations faster.
It all depends on whether you need an exact answer or not, but most of the time even when do you need an exact answer, it’s still much quicker to round off for the first operation and then shave off for the exact number.
If you had to multiply 23 times 52, think of it as 2 times 5 (or 20 times 50), just to get in the neighborhood of the real solution. The answer will have four digits because you multiply two digits by two digits. You have four places in the problem, so you need four places in the answer.
The answer is roughly a 1000, right? (20 x 50)
Or you could think of it as 20 times 52 = 1040, and then 3 times 52 = 156, and then add the two numbers 1040 plus 156 = 1196.
With larger numbers you have to keep the number of numbers in the answer straight. In 23 times 52, there are going to be four places in the answer.
482 times 5160 will have seven places in the answer. Round off each number. This is a 5 times 5 problem, so the answer will roughly be 25 as a seven place number. 2,500,000.
Or, you can see it as a 48 times 52 problem with a seven place answer. Or a 24 times 104 problem. Why? Because you half one number and double the other. Sometimes halving and doubling will make the answer immediately apparent. Just remember to keep the places in the answer. Sometimes halving and doubling several times will get you to the answer., which is the same as 12 times 208. Or 6 times 416. Or 3 times 832. Just remember to keep the original seven places in the answer. 3 times 832 = 2496, which, written as a seven place number, is 2,496,000… fairly close to 2,500,000.
482 times 5160 actually equals 2,487,120, so the mentally done answers were close. It depends on whether you need an exact number or not.
What time is it in Europe? It’s about eight, nine hours more there than here where it is noon, so it’s about 9 at night. Or 2100 hours (12 + 9 = 21).
Think of military time, a 24 hour clock, which is what they do in Europe, actually. In Paris, they say dix-huit heures (18 hours) for six in the evening (12+6). Six heures is six in the morning and dix-huit heures is six at night. This avoids a lot of the AM PM confusion. It’s all a matter of perspective, just as it is if you look at that flat board there at the diplomats’ feet in this painting by Holbein. Can you see what is on the board? It’s a skull, perfectly limned but you need a special glass to see it.
Six in the morning here on the West Coast of the US is about fifteen hours there (3 pm) in Paris. You have to determine whether they are using Daylight Savings Time in one or both places for the real answer. I do lots of interviews with Europe at six in the morning here, though, so I know it’s a comfortable time in the afternoon there.
Australia is an interesting case. We are 18 hours behind Australia. The sun “rose” here and 18 hours later it “rose” in Australia, because the earth is spinning counterclockwise.
Eight in the morning on Tuesday in Melbourne, Australia, is two in the afternoon on Monday in San Francisco. This can seem hard to figure and strange at first.
If you do this calculation a lot, sooner or later you realize that 18 is closer to 24, and it’s easier to go back 24 to San Francisco and then add 6. So 24 hours earlier than 8 morning Melbourne is 8 morning San Francisco and then add 6 makes 2 afternoon San Francisco. It’s a shortcut when you do it a lot and when you think in 24 hour time, so that 2 afternoon is 14 (12+2).
Two afternoon in San Francisco = 8 morning Melbourne, the next morning. 2 pm Mon SF = 8 am TUES Melbourne. If you call a friend in Melbourne a few times, you catch on very quickly. You don’t want to be waking people up at 3 or 4 in the morning.
Think of Melbourne as a day ahead, but minus six hours. That’s the shortcut.
Or, just count back six hours from your San Francisco time. 2 pm six hours back is 8 am in Melbourne. BUT it’s 8 am of the following day.
Multiplying by 11 : What’s 11 x 36? It’s 396. You add the two outer digits 3 + 6 and put the answer in between them, 396. This is a property of multiplying by 11.
11 x 61 = 671. The two outer digits 6 and 1 = 7, which you put in the middle of the number 61 to make 671. Magic!
If the two “outer” numbers add up to more than 10, you have add the “carry” to the first one. 11 x 78 = 858, because 7 + 8 = 15, and so that first digit 7 became an 8.
Guessing how much you are going to spend : If you buy 10 items in a store and you want to see roughly what they cost you, just add the dollar amounts (forget the cents on each item) and then add a dollar for each two items.
That is, add up all the dollars (not the cents) and then add five dollars (1/2 of 10 items is five, a dollar for each two items) and you will be quite close to the actual amount.
This is the cost of the items: 1.16, 4.53, 2.27, 3.76, 7.54, 9.18, 2.57, 11.24, .57, and 1.12.
Adding just the dollars together = 40 and then add the dollar for each two items 5 = 45 dollars for the rough estimate.
The actual bill is $ 43.94… very close to the estimate.
Let’s say you want to add 197 to 63. Round up the 197 to 200 and subtract the 3 from 63. The answer is 260. Always look for ways to get to a round number.
Add 13, 17 and 55. You can make the 13 and the 17 fifteen each and get 85 for the answer. Shortcuts. Rounding off.
Despite many of these illustrations, we’re just talking about arithmetic here, not mathematics. I’ll talk about mathematics later, but not now.
Hold your two hands in front of you like this. Starting at the thumb on the left, number your fingers from one to ten, so that number ten is the thumb on your right.
You now have a machine for the 9 times table. Fold down any finger you want to multiply 9 by. Let’s say you want to multiply 9 times 8. The eighth finger is your right hand middle finger, the third digit from the right. Fold that middle finger down. The number of fingers to the left of that middle finger is 7, and the number of fingers to the right is 2. That’s the answer for 9 times 8. 72. 7 fingers on one side of the folded finger and 2 on the other.
Try it again. Let’s say 3 times 9. 3 is the middle finger of the left hand. Fold that left hand middle finger down. There are 2 fingers to the left of this folded down finger and 7 fingers to the right. That’s the answer. 27. Your hands can be an abacus.
9 is an interesting number for so many reasons. 2 x 9 = 18 and 1 + 8 = 9. 3 x 9 = 27 and 2 + 7 = 9. 4 x 9 = 36 and 3 + 6 = 9, and so on.
5 x 9 = 1 less than 5, 4. And then 5 itself which is 45. And 4 + 5 = 9.
3 squared is 9 and 3 cubed is 27 and 3 to the 4th power is 81 and 8 + 1 = 9.
Let’s say you want to multiply a number by itself, a number that ends in 5… let’s say 15. 15 x 15. Multiply the first digit 1 by the next higher digit 2 and then attach 25. The answer is 225. 15 x 15 = 225.
Do it with 85. Multiply the first digit 8 by one number higher than itself 9 and the answer is 72 and then add a 25 on the end and you get 7225. 85 x 85=7225.
Always try to round up to tens, hundreds, thousands, numbers that are easy to handle.
Say you are adding a column of numbers like 2, 36, 176, 44, 12. Put 36 and 44 together to = 80.
And then put 2, 176, and 12 together to = 190. So, 190 and 80 = 270. That’s a lot faster than adding five separate numbers, isn’t it?
It doesn’t matter which way you put them together. As long as you get up to round numbers. You could have combined 176 and 44 for 220 and then put 2, 36 and 12 together for 50, and then added 220 and 50 together for the same result, 270. Whatever is quickest.
Here’s another hand/abacus trick. Imagine that your fingers are numbered 6,7,8,9,10 on each hand starting from the little finger and counting out to the thumbs.
To multiply 9 times 9 touch the two # 9 fingers together. Let’s have Michelangelo do this for us.
Or, to show this a little more clearly, I’ll put my two #9 fingers together, and imagine that there is a line just above them.
Multiply the two digits (thumbs) above the line by each other to get the units: 1 x 1 = 1
Then count up the digits below the line (including the index fingers themselves) which is 4 digits on each hand below the line, so 8 x 10 = 80. 80 + 1 is the answer to 9 x 9 = 81.
Let’s try some different fingers to verify that this works. Put the two # 8 fingers, the middle fingers, together. Now, we’re multiplying 8 x 8.
Multiply the two fingers on each hand that are above the line and you get 2 x 2 = 4 the number of units in the answer.
There are six fingers below the “line,” (counting the middle fingers) so multiply 6 times 10 = 60. 60 + 4 = 64 and that’s the answer to 8 x 8.
Subtraction : If you need to subtract 14 from 96, first subtract the 10 to get 86 and then subtract the 4 to get 82, the answer. Round up or down to get to simple numbers. Try to get to tens.
96 minus 59. Take away 50 and you get 46. Take away 9 and you get 37, the answer.
But you may find it easier to do it this way. 96 minus 59. Take away 60 and you have 36. Put back the 1 (that you borrowed to make 59 into 60) and you have 37, the same answer.
It’s all about finding the big, round numbers in a lot of uneven numbers. It doesn’t matter how complicated the math gets, these shortcuts still apply in the basic language, arithmetic.
811 minus 37 is like 814 minus 40, right? Because you added 3 to each number to get a round number? It’s the same as 800 minus 26. Is that easier to solve?
Take the easiest route to a round number. The answer to all three problems is 774. Which one was easiest to solve in your head?
The whole idea is to find the answer to these problems in your head without a calculator.
Multiplication : To multiply by 5, divide by 2 and put a 0 on the end. If you have 26 people and they each owe $5, the total will be $130.
5 x 18, the first set of numbers we considered. 5 x 18 = 1/2 of 18 with a zero at the end. That’s 90.
Decimals : 1/2 = .50 or .5
Decimals : 10 x 3.87 = 38.7. 100 x 3.87 = 387 The whole idea of decimals is that 5/8 = 8 divided into 5. So 8 will go into 5 six times, right? 6 x 8 = 48. Then, there will be 2 left over, so 8 into 20 will be 2 with 4 left over, and 8 into 40 will be 5. 5/8ths = .625 4/8ths is a half .5, and 1/8 = 8 into 1 = .125
Decimals : 1/3 = .333 and 2/3 = .666 Fourths are like quarters… 1/4 = .25… 2/4 = .50… 34 = .75 They ARE quarters.
1/5 = .20 and 4/5 = .80 Think of 5 as 1/2 ten and things become easier.
1/6 = .1666 and 5/6 = .8333 These 6s and 3s go on forever. It’s like Pi.
1/7 = .142857 There’s some kind of number magic here. 2/7 = .285714 and 3/7 = .428571 Notice the pattern?
You can see why Pythagoras made a whole life out of numbers.
Overtones or fundamentals in the world of sound are a series of fractions that any string player knows well. If you lightly touch a string at the various fractions and pluck it with the other hand you will hear a beautiful harmonic. It will sound like chime. The harmonics generated our scale and chords.
1/2 of a string = one octave higher. Look at the bottom of this image, and then let your eyes travel upward. The entire scale is here. It’s a dominant scale. C D E F# G A Bb B C This is the chord in nature. C E G Bb It’s a dominant seventh. Look at the fractions: 1/2 1/3 1/4 1/5 1/6 1/7
1/3 of a string = an octave and a fifth higher. If the open string is E and you touch that string at 1/3 of its length, you will hear the 5th of E = B and so on. You can play an entire scale on an open string just by touching harmonics. Indeed, this is where the scale comes from. The different fractions of any sound, be it a ram’s horn, a guitar, the voice, all of those overtones are what we are really hearing in our music. It’s all based in nature.
If you use all of the harmonics on all 6 strings of the guitar, really, you can play almost anything in harmonics only. This set of numbers in our world, and the entire universe has a sound, as every musician knows, determines what scale(s) we will play. The 5th string of the guitar will generate all of these harmonics. This is all about fractions and decimals made audible.
Its worth repeating: Music is mathematics heard aloud. Or, perhaps better said, numbers are a kind of mental music. Proportions. This is what excited Pythagoras.
The cables on a bridge vibrate and if they vibrate together too strongly, they can shake the bridge down. Engineers have to be aware of such things.
This is called the Sky Harp Bridge and it is indeed a harp.
1/8 = .125… 3/8 = .375
1/9 = .1 and 2/9 = .2 and 3/9 = .3 and 4/9 = .4 and I could go on and on. These are close to 1/10ths.
1/11 = .0909 This is dividing 11 into 10.
4 x 697? Round the 697 off to 7 and it’s a four number answer, so close to 2800. The actual answer is 2788.
39 x 518 will have five digits in the answer and it’s a 4 times 5 problem, so the answer will be close to 20,000. 20,202 is the actual answer. Fairly close.
Does she look like a genius in mathematics? Don’t judge Principia Mathematica by that shiny reflective cover that it has on the 7-11 newsrack.
Dividing : Multiplying is fun. Dividing can be tedious or treacherous but it really is the mirror image of multiplying. The main thing is that you are trying to guess how many times a number will go into another number. If I am going to pay 5 band members and we made $1196, how much did we make apiece? $239.20, is that right? I just did that in my head, as I have had to do on so many nights at two in the morning after a couple of hot sets and drinks, accompanied by a lot of yelling and screaming and sweat, not to mention my friend the Clubowner who already knows the answer and is waiting for me to make a foolish mistake. This is a rather different situation from taking the SAT test. It’s called Real Life.
Dividing : 5 into 1196 5 goes into 11 two times with one left over. 2. Now it’s a 5 into 19 problem. 3 x 5 = 15 is as close as I can get, so that’s the second digit in the answer, 3. 23. Now it’s a 5 into 46 problem. 9 with one left over. 239. The one left over is 1/5 of a dollar, or 20 cents.
Division : The thing is to remember the left overs while you’re doing the next computation.
For remembering left overs up to 5 you can use the digits of one hand. For six you can join your thumb and little finger to remember 6. You can join your thumb and ring finger to remember 7, and you can join your thumb and middle finger to remember 8, and thumb and index to remember 9. Does that make sense? President Clinton is remembering 9 here.
You want to remember these numbers because they are what you have left over when you are dividing 5 into 1196. When you divide 5 into 11, you have one left over. That’s easy, just hold out a thumb. When you divide 5 into 19, that’s four digits to show what is left over. Then you divide 5 into 46 which is 5 with one left over, and so on.
For left over numbers greater than 9, you’re going to have to sing them or shout them or something to make you remember what you are “carrying down” for the next operation.
Dividing by two digits : OK, so let’s say I have a 16 piece band and one depressing evening we make $398. Oooh, this could be a little difficult to explain.
So now I’m dividing 16 into 398. 16 will go twice into 39 with 7 left over.
The first number in the answer is 2. Then divide 16 into 78. It’ll go 4 times with fourteen left over. So far the answer is 24. (Knowledge doesn’t have an enemy, except for ignorance.)
There are 14 left over. 16 into 14 = .875 so each musician will take home $24.88, uh,oh.
OK, now I secure an engagement where I conduct three symphony orchestras and eight string quartets all at the same time. (I’m starting to feel like the Music Man.) I have 356 musicians and we earn, wait for it, $103,596 for the evening. (Fantasy Island). So, how much do each of the 356 musicians make for the evening?
Dividing by three digits : 356 will go how many times into 103,596?
Find the first number in 103,596 that will hold 356. One won’t do it. 10 won’t do it. 103 won’t. 1035 will hold 356… twice, as a matter of fact.
So, 2 is the first digit in the answer. The musicians are going to make over $200 apiece for the night. How much over?
2 x 356 = 712 and 712 will go into 1035 two times with 323 left over. Carry down the 9 to make 3239.
How many times will 356 go into 3239? Seems as if 356 will go into 3239 a lot of times, doesn’t it?
If 356 were 400 it would go into 3239 eight times, right? 8 x 400 = 3200?
So, just eyeballing it, it seems as if 356 would go into 3239 maybe nine times, right? Let’s see. 9 x 356 = 3204
So, 9 is the next digit in the answer. Now we have 29.
Nine times 356 = 3204, so 356 will go into 3204 nine times with 35 left over. Yes? Bring down the 6 and the new number is 356.
We’re dividing 356 into 103,596 and so far we have an answer of 290, is that right?
Subtract 3204 from 3239 and the answer is 35. Bring down the last 6 in 103596 and you get 356 which will take 356. 356 goes into 356 once, so the answer is 1. 291.
Each of the 356 musicians is going to make $ 291 for the evening. That took me a while to figure out. Obviously.
Whew! I’m starting to remember why I didn’t love long division when I was in grade school.
Fortunately there are some shortcuts for dividing.
First, you can cancel zeros. 70 into 6300 is like 7 into 630 = 90. 60 into 3600 is like 6 into 360 = 60.
When a number ends in zero, you can divide by 10 just by removing the zero. 780 divided by 10 = 78.
When a number doesn’t end in zero and you are dividing by 10, just move decimal point one to the left. 837 divided by 10 = 83.7. Divided by a hundred 837 = 8.37.
If you are dividing by 4, 8, 12, numbers like that, keep halving until you get the answer. 4 into 84 . Half 84 (42), then half it again (21). 4 into 84 = 21. (She is a champion mathematician, by the way. So much for stereotypes.)
To divide quickly by 5, it is often possible to double the number you are multiplying by and divide by 10. 5 into 410 is the same as 10 into 820. The answer is 82.
It’s the same with dividing a number by 1/2 or .5 or .50. 3 1/2 divided into 28 will be the same as 7 into 56. You’re doubling each side of the equation, so the answer is 8.
Same with other fractions. If you are dividing 2 1/4 (or 2.25) into 18, change the problem to 9 (4 x 2.25) into 72 (4×18) and you immediately know that the answer is 8. Round the fraction up until it becomes 1 and then multiply the other side of the equation by that same amount and the problem becomes much easier.
Moving the decimal point to get a whole number will often help. 1.7 into 51 is the same as 17 into 51, but you have to keep track of that decimal point in the answer. 17 goes into 51 three times, but move the decimal one place to the right in the answer. It’s 30 times. It’s like 17 into 510.
How many times will 25 go into 80? 25 will go into 800 32 times (8 x 4 = 32) so 80 divided by 25 = 3.2
Sometimes halving the two sides of an division problem can give you the answer quickly, halving or quartering even. If you have 28 into 252, try 14 into 126 or even 7 into 63. Then it’s easy to see that the answer is 9.
Estimating : Remember the folders on the desk top? Each page in those folders will hold 18 items. How many items will 34 pages of 18 items hold? 612.
34 x 20 = 680 34 x 2 = 68 680 – 68 = 612 Was it easier to do it that way?
You can round off to guess the answer if it doesn’t have to be exact. Round 18 up to 20 and 34 down to 30: 20 x 30 = 600 That’s close.
Another way to solve 18 x 34 is to consider 34 as 1/3 of a 100. So 1/3 of 18 = 6. 6 x 100 = 600, the same answer as we had by rounding off above.
Another way to solve 18 x 34 is to halve and double. 18 x 34 is the same as 9 x 68 is the same as 4 1/2 x 136 is the same as 2 1/4 x 272. Which problem is easiest to solve for you?
I might go with 4 1/2 x 136. So 4 x 136 is doubling 136 and then doubling it again. 136 x 4 = 2 x 272 = 544, yes? 544 + 1/2 of 136 = 544 + 68 = 612. Yes, that’s the answer. Actually, I like the multiplying by 20 idea best.
Let’s say you had 51 pages of 18 items. How many items are there? 51 x 20 = 1020 – 102 = 918 (That’s the skull that was on the tilted board, by the way.)
Another way to solve this problem is to see 50 as 1/2 of a hundred, and so to half the 18, and it becomes a 9 x 100 problem = 900.
The answer is somewhere between 900 and 1,000. 18 x 51 = 918.
If one of the numbers is 66 or close to 66 (65,67), then you have a 2/3rds problem. 12 x 66 = 2/3 of 12 x 100 = 800. The actual answer is 792. That’s close.
9 into 35? How exact a number do you need? Because 9 into 36 = 4. That’s going to be very close to the actual answer which is 3.85.
Here’s another way to solve 9 into 35.
Multiply 35 by 11. Remember that for 11 x questions you can add the two outer digits and put the answer in the middle, so 11 x 35 = 385.
9 into 35 = 3.85
11 into 400 = 400 x 9 = 3,600 divided by 100 = 36 give or take. Actually it’s 36 and 4/ 11ths. Close.
Be careful in estimating with having the right number of places in the answer. 9367 + 2254 can be seen as 94 + 22, but you have to remember that there are five places in the answer to this. 92 + 22 = 116, but remember that you need 5 places in the answer, so it’s going to be close to 11,600. (The actual answer is 11,621.)
OK, now we’re in the grocery store again. Remember the estimate of how much the ten items would cost? Here’s another way to look at the same problem.
Round each price to the nearest 50¢.
So, 1.47 and .67 and 2.52 and .24 and 3.68 and 2.93 and 4.17 and 5.92 and .20 and 8.87, add them up rounding off to the nearest 50 cents.
It’s 1.50 + .50 + 2.50 + .50 + 3.50 + 3 + 4 + 6 + 0 + 9 = ? I got 30.50 Did you?
The real answer is $ 30.67 Now that’s close.
Do you remember the other way we did it? It was just adding up the dollar amounts and then adding a dollar for each two items, so that answer would be 25, plus the dollar for each two items, would be 30. Very close.
438, 312 minus 25,803 = ? It’s something like 438 – 26, right? So, roughly 412? Taken out to six places = 412,000
The actual answer is 412,509.
OK, let’s say you’re going to divide a big number into an even bigger number.
Here’s one I know you will relate to. If Priscilla makes 5,238,713 dollars a year, how much does she earn an hour?
There are 8,765.81 hours in a year.
So, yikes, divide 8,765.81 into $5,238,713.
There are a couple of ways to round off these big numbers and make them smaller. You can consider the 8,765.81 to be 9,000 and 5,238,713 to be 5,000,000, so now it’s 9,000 into 5,000,000 or, canceling zeros, 9 into 5,000. That looks much better, doesn’t it?
9 into 5,000 = a lot of the number five. Let’s say 555. So, that can be one estimate of how much Priscilla makes an hour. $555
Another way to round off 8,765.81 into 5,238,713 would be to think of it as 8,800 into 5,200,000. Cancel the zeros, so it becomes 88 into 52,000. That’s better.
88 into 52,000 is roughly 590. So, we have really rough estimates of 555 and 590 dollars per hour for Priscilla this year. The actual answer is 597 and change, so we were fairly close. $598 an hour, not bad.
I have no idea what Priscilla Presley makes or made, but I wish her all the best. Lisa Marie probably does a little better. She and mama married the kings. Well, to me Little Richard was the king, but you know what I mean? Thank you for sitting through this. It was a bit of a workout, wasn’t it?
Remember Woody Allen in Annie Hall? He was looking for another religion and was considering Rosicrucianism. “Nah,” he muttered, “why would I want to be part of a religion that advertises in the back of Popular Mechanics?”
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way…. things I had no words for. Georgia O’Keeffe
Ekphrasis: Writing about art. Ekphrasis is “the verbal representation of visual representation.” The apparent conflict between image and word is central to the concept. No amount of description adds up to a depiction.
Initially, ekphrasis was a rhetorical term like many others taught to Greek students. Teachers of rhetoric taught ekphrasis as a way of bringing the experience of an object to a listener or reader through highly detailed descriptive writing. Ekphrasis was one of the last rhetorical exercises students were taught and the challenge was to bring the experience of a person, a place, or a thing to an audience as vividly as possible.
There is much current debate about which descriptions of art rise to the level of ekphrasis.
The hope of ekphrasis is that there might be a way to write about objects so that someone could encounter them verbally, and be almost as affected as if they actually saw those objects but when I am looking at an Ingres or a Dürer or a Mantegna or a Holbein or a del Sarto, I want to see the work in itself without any historical or biographical overlay. At that moment, I do not need an ekphrasis.
I would much rather be ignorant of the circumstances of an artist doing a given painting, while I am viewing that painting. To me these details are distracting when they are not detracting from the work itself. It would be like hearing a criticism of the music while you are listening to someone play the music.
A description of a photograph, a sculpture, a light show, a painting, a concert can be as worthwhile or more worthwhile than the thing being described. I just don’t want to hear an ekphrasis while I am confronting the original piece of art. I don’t mind at all people commenting on what I am doing while I’m painting and, in fact, I enjoy it, because it gives me ideas and keeps me involved. But an ekphrasis? An extended monologue on what I am doing? Probably not a good idea.
In ancient times ekphrasis referred to a description of any thing, person, or experience. From Greek ἔκφρασις (ekphrasis, “description”), from ἐκφράζω ( ekphrazō, “I describe”), from ἐκ (ek, “out, ex-”) + φράζω (phrazō, “I explain, point out”). The accent, we see, is on the first syllable. Few pieces of media jargon have as long a history or as considerable an evolution as “ekphrasis.”
Ekphrasis may also be spelled ecphrasis, which would explain why I could not find it in the Oxford English Dictionary, but now will look again.
The Oxford English Dictionary does provide a definition, from 1715, for ‘ecphrasis’ as “a plain declaration or interpretation of a thing.” The second reference, from 1814, is similarly abrupt indicating some shift in meaning over the course of about a hundred years when ekphrasis is characterized by “florid effeminacies of style.” While not inaccurate, this definition is hardly recognizable against the panoply of meanings of ekphrasis today.
“Ekphrasis” is a rhetorical device.
Ekphrasis is the description of a work of art in words or images.
I have to confess that I don’t care for verbal descriptions about art. In fact, I have never worn a set of earphones in a museum. The words and the paintings before me just don’t match. Writing about art tends to become bogged down in curious little details about the artist’s life that really have nothing to do with what s/he is producing.
When what’s her name finished her painting in the cave at Chauvet about 35,000 years ago, and she went home to tell her husband about it, she was committing ekphrasis.
Ekphrasis was already an old phenomenon by then.
Given the right circumstances, any art may describe any other art, especially if there is present a rhetorical element, that is, a conscious effort to be effective in describing.
When Sophia Ramos saw this painting, she said, “You drew everyone as they are now, but Peter looks as he did then.” That was Sophia’s ekphrasis.
An ekphrasis can elevate the original or even surpass it. A review of a film can be more artistic than the film itself.
The “redoing” (ekphrasis) of a work of art is especially common in the late periods of a given style, say, in Mannerism, or in Pop Art, where the main energy is devoted to reexamining the original creative energy of a slightly earlier era.
Socrates had a discussion with Phaedrus on the subject of ekphrasis.
“You know, Phaedrus, that is the strange thing about writing, which makes it truly correspond to painting.
The painter’s products stand before us as though they were alive,
but if you question them, they maintain a most majestic silence.
It is the same with written words; they seem to talk
to you as if they were intelligent, but if you ask them anything
about what they say, from a desire to be instructed,
they go on telling you just the same thing forever.”
The first classical example of ekphrasis is in Homer, although ekphrasis is as old as human speech.
The Iliad (Book 18) describes Achilles’ protective gear, how skillfully and artistically Hephaestos (who was known as Vulcan to the Romans) made Achilles’ shield.
Famous later examples include Virgil’s Aeneid, where the poet describes what Aeneas sees engraved on the doors of Carthage’s temple of Juno (Athena), and a passage in the Roman poet Catullus, which contains an extended ekphrasis of an imaginary coverlet that illustrates the story of Ariadne. Virgil and Catullus make you want to see the work they are describing, make you wish to be there.
The fullest example of ekphrasis in antiquity can be found in Philostratus of Lemnos’ Eikones which describes 64 pictures in a Neapolitan villa.
Ekphrasis is described in Aphthonius’ Progymnasmata. It is one of the devices learned in a study of rhetoric and, along with other classical literary techniques, was revived in the Renaissance.
The evocative but vague mentions of objects in Beowulf are always mentioned by writers on Anglo-Saxon art and compared to the treasures of Sutton Hoo and the Staffordshire Hoard.
In the Middle Ages exphrasis, as a rhetorical technique, was less often practiced, and historians of medieval art have noted that the accounts of monastic chronicles recording now vanished art concentrate on objects made from valuable materials or on the status of relics, and rarely give more than the cost and weight of objects, and perhaps a mention of the subject matter of the iconography.
The Renaissance and Baroque periods made much use of ekphrasis. In Renaissance Italy, Canto 33 of Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso describes a picture gallery created by Merlin
In Spain, Lope de Vega often used allusions and descriptions of Italian art in his plays, and included the painter Tiziano (Titian) as one of his characters.
Calderón de la Barca also incorporated works of art in dramas such as The Painter of his Dishonor.
Cervantes, who spent his youth in Italy, described many Renaissance frescoes and paintings in Don Quixote and many of his other works.
Shakespeare briefly describes a group of erotic paintings in Cymbeline, but his most extended ekphratic exercise is a 200-line description of the Greek army before Troy in The Rape of Lucrece.
Ekphrasis seems to have been less common in, say, France during these periods, but it flourished in the Romantic era and among the pre-Raphaelites.
Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats is a beautiful example of the artistic power of ekphrasis.
Instances of ekphrasis in nineteenth century literature can be found in the works of such influential figures as Spanish novelist Benito Pérez Galdós, French poet, painter and novelist Théophile Gautier, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. A striking use of the device can be found in Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray and in Rilke’s Archaischer Torso des Apollos.
In The American Claimant, Mark Twain wrote a hilarious description of a “chromolithograph” owned by Colonel Mulberry Sellers, where the Colonel waxes eloquent on the painterly quality of the cheap print. This too is an example of ekphrasis.
Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, or The Whale features an intense use of ekphrasis as a stylistic manifesto of the book in which it appears. In the chapter “The Spouter Inn”, a painting hanging on the wall of a whaler’s inn is described as irreconciliably unclear, overscrawled with smoke and defacements.
The narrator, so-called Ishmael, describes how this painting can be both lacking any definition and still provoking in the viewer dozens of distinct possible understandings, until the great mass of interpretations resolves into a Whale, which grounds all the interpretations while containing them, an indication of how Melville sees his own book unfolding around this chapter.
In Pérez Galdós’s Our Friend Manso (1882), the narrator describes two paintings by Theodore Géricault that point to the shipwreck of ideals; while in La incógnita (1889), there are many allusions and descriptions of Italian art, including references to Botticelli, Mantegna, Masaccio, Raphael and Titian.
In Ibsen’s 1888 work The Lady From The Sea, the first act begins with the description of a painting of a mermaid dying on the shore and is followed by a description of a sculpture that depicts a woman having a nightmare of an ex-lover returning to her.
Both works of art can be interpreted as having much importance in the overall meaning of the play as protagonist Ellida Wangel both yearns for her lost youth spent on an island out at sea and is later in the play visited by a lover she thought dead.
An interesting example of the back-and-forth dynamic that exists between literary ekphrasis and art, was that, in 1896 (eight years after the play was written), Norwegian painter Edvard Munch painted an image similar to the one described by Ibsen in a painting Munch entitled (unsurprisingly enough) Lady from the Sea.
Ibsen’s last work When We Dead Awaken also contains examples of ekphrasis as the play’s protagonist, Arnold Rubek, is a sculptor who several times throughout the play describes his masterpiece “Resurrection Day” at length and in the many different forms the sculpture took throughout the stages of its creation.
Fyodor Dostoëvsky (or Dostoevsky or Dostoyefsky, Russian names are notoriously difficult to transliterate) employed ekphrasis most notably in his novel The Idiot. In this novel the protagonist Prince Myshkin sees a painting of a dead Christ in the house of Rogozhin that has a profound effect on him. I read The Idiot when I was 18, and I still remember this passage vividly.
Later in the novel another character, Hippolite, describes the painting at much length depicting the image of Christ as one of brutal realism that lacks any beauty or sense of the divine.
Rogozhin, who is himself the owner of the painting, at one moment says that the painting has the power to take away a man’s faith, a comment that Dostoevsky himself made to his wife Anna upon seeing the actual painting that the painting in the novel is based on, The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb by Hans Holbein. I know this painting and I don’t have any of these reactions when I look at it. I mostly think about the unusual perspective and, as always with Holbein, marvel at the artist’s graphic skill.
Though this is the major instance of ekphrasis in the novel, and the one which has the most thematic importance to the story as a whole, other instances can be spotted when Prince Myshkin sees a painting of Swiss landscape that reminds him of a view he saw while at a sanatorium in Switzerland, and also when he first sees the face of his love interest, Nastasya, in the form of a painted portrait. Nastasya too at one point in the novel describes a painting of Christ.
The Irish aesthete and novelist Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890/1891) tells how Basil Hallward paints a picture of the young man named Dorian Gray. Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, who espouses a new hedonism, dedicated to the pursuit of beauty and all pleasures of the senses.
Dorian bemoans the fact that his youth will soon fade. He would sell his soul so as to have the portrait age rather than himself. The gradual deterioration of the portrait as Dorian engages in a debauched life, becomes a mirror of his soul. The repeated notional ekphrasis of the deteriorating figure in the painting is a unique way to utilize this device.
Anthony Powell’s novel A Dance to the Music of Time begins with an evocation of the painting by Poussin, and contains other passages of ekphrasis, perhaps influenced by many passages in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu.
The Shield of Achilles (1952), a poem by W.H. Auden, brings the tradition back to its start with an ironic retelling of that episode in Homer, where Thetis finds very different scenes from those she expects.
In contrast, Auden’s earlier poem Musée des Beaux Arts describes a particular real and very famous painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, thought until recently to be by rather than after Pieter Brueghel the Elder, which is also described in the eponymous poem by William Carlos Williams.
Journalistic art criticism was effectively invented by Denis Diderot in his long pieces on the works in the Paris Salon, and extended accounts of exhibitions of new art became a popular seasonal feature in the journalism of most Western countries.
Since few if any of the works could be illustrated, description and evocation was necessary, and the cruelty of descriptions of works disliked became a part of the style. Curses be upon Diderot’s head for this, although I like him as a man and as an encyclopédiste. Critics who think that to be hip they have to be negative are the scum of the earth. Insecure and talentless they are and they betray this with every line they write.
As art history began to become an academic subject in the 19th century, exphrasis as formal analysis of objects was regarded as a vital component of the subject, and by no means all examples lack attractiveness as literature.
Writers on art for a wider audience produced many descriptions with great literary as well as art historical merit. John Ruskin, both the most important journalistic critic and popularizer of historic art of his day, and Walter Pater, above all for his famous evocation of the Mona Lisa, are among the most notable ekphrasists of the 19th century. As photography in books or on television allowed audiences a direct visual comparison to the verbal description, the role of ekphratic commentary on the images was perhaps even increased.
Ekphrasis has also been an influence on art; for example the ekphrasis of the Shield of Achilles in Homer and other classical examples were certainly an inspiration for the elaborately decorated large serving dishes in silver, crowded with complicated scenes in relief, that were produced in 16th century Mannerist metalwork.
There are a number of examples of ekphrasis in music, of which the best known is probably Pictures at an Exhibition, a suite in ten movements (plus a recurring, varied Promenade) composed for piano by the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky in 1874, and then very popular in various arrangements for orchestra. The suite is based on real pictures, although as the exhibition was dispersed, most are now unidentified. I have actually played this piece several times on clarinet with an orchestra, and can always hear its major theme in my head.
Ekphrasis may describe an entirely imaginary and non-existing work of art, as though it were factual and existed in reality. I have had many dreams about imaginary pieces of art, or pieces of music Probably everyone has. These are a kind of ekphrasis in themselves. In fact, I “see” every painting before I execute it. The suprise and wonder come from seeing how the final work differs from the imagined ekphrasis.
The true use of ekphrasis was not to simply provide astute details of an object, but to share the emotional experience and content with someone who had never encountered the work in question.
The student of ekphrasis was encouraged to lend her attention not only to the qualities immediately available in an object, but to make efforts to embody qualities beyond the physical aspects of the work.
Another reference to the complication of words and images in ekphrasis comes in its relation to the famous quote by Horace, ‘ut pictura poesis’.
There is some discussion about the translation of this phrase, which bears on the relation of words and images in art.
Eventually ekphrasis became an art that described art.
A couple of classic uses of ekphrasis in our time: Why, my five year old kid could do that. and I may not know much about art, but I know what I like. and I saw that Picasso (substitute here Piet Mondrian, Hans Hoffman, Damien Hirst, Gerhard Richter, or anyone else you don’t like) show the other day and it was a load of crap.
Hey, just leave it alone. It’s a big world. There’s room for everybody. Everybody doesn’t like something. But nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee. Well, I’m not crazy about Sara Lee, but some people are. Anyway, you get the point. There are people who think Cy Twombly is a genius, and he very well could be. I think Robert Crumb is a genius, but I wager there are a LOT of people who would disagree.
I always have the feeling that people who write about art or music but who don’t actually do art or music should maybe be a little more humble when they confront a work of art.
The idea of ekphrasis, both ancient and contemporary, rests on the idea that ekphrasis is only a rhetorical term or a means of negotiating a way between the verbal and the visual.
If ekphrasis were to become a complete and perfect intermediary between the two sides of the word/image dialectic, then the entire paradigm would crumble. Or, to put it another way, if you can say it, then why paint it? Or if you can draw it, then why say it?
A picture is worth far more than a thousand words.
A slight digression: Have you ever been in a museum standing before a great work of art, and then have suddenly noticed a really beautiful woman (or, OK, man) standing next to you, lost in the same appreciation?
Have you then thought, “This person standing here is so much more complete and interesting than this work of art.” That is, that the vividness of the physical presence is… oh, well, of course you have. At this point, you have probably done several ekphrases on your own. Maybe even have written a poem about that person standing next to you in the Louvre on a May afternoon.
I could do several ekphrases on the work of Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi). His use of lighting, very dramatic, we used to call it “nightclub lighting,” the darks, the dramatic movement, the unusual subject matter. I have copied his work many times.
John Ruskin wrote many beautiful and brilliant ekphrastic passages about the work of J.M.W. Turner.
Now we live increasingly in a world of images alone. Verbal communication is much less interesting and immediate. The ability to reproduce works of art in sumptuous color plates, not to mention the internet, Facebook, soon holography?, television, film, all have reduced the importance of ekphrastic writing.
I like to read about the historical context of a painting, but only after or before I am viewing the particular work of art.
In fact, when I hear an ekphrasis, especially a very good ekphrasis, my mind, such as it is, begins to wander….
I’ll be an artist as long as I can draw breath.
Why do people think artists are special? It’s just another job. Andy Warhol
What do you call an American drawing? A Yankee Doodle.
What did blue say to orange? I never say no to a complement.
I could have done that. Yeah, but you didn’t. I did it.
Hope is a four letter word, at least in English. So is love.
Dancing cheek to cheek is really a form of floor play.
Don’t trust a computer that you can’t throw out a window. Steve Wozniak
Texan in Australia talking to Aussie rancher when they see a mob of kangaroos: What are those? Aussie answers, Don’t you have grasshoppers in Texas?
It’s easy to understand modern art. If it hangs on a wall, it’s a painting. If you can walk around it, it’s a sculpture.
Art thief who ran out of gas: I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the van Gogh.
The only difference between California and yogurt is that yogurt has an active culture.
What is perfect pitch? When you throw a guitar into a dumpster and it spears a snare drum.
If there really is a devil who is out to destroy the universe by means of vile conspiracies, and if god decides to deliver this message to humanity, she will not use Jerry Falwell as her messenger. But John Williams will maybe write the score.
What did the drummer ask the singer? ”Do you want this too fast or too slow?”
Why do men like smart women? Opposites attract.
What did god say after creating man? Come on, I can do way better than that. (That was god’s ekphrasis.)
Why is it good that there are female astronauts? When the crew gets lost in space, the woman will ask for directions.
What should you give a man who has everything? A woman to show him how it all works.
Men are like vacations. They never seem to be long enough.
What do you instantly know about a well-dressed man? His wife is good at picking out clothes.
You’re looking sharp, so let’s go back to my flat and get natural.
Eye, eye, Cap’n.
What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot.
A Czech goes to her eye doctor and he shows her a chart. C Z W O T Y Can you read this? Read it?, she says, I’m married to him.
Why were the bones chasing the skull? Because they wanted to get ahead.
How do you make a blonde’s eyes light up? Shine a flashlight in her ear.
Why are blonde jokes so short? So men can understand them.
How bad was Facebook’s IPO offering? Dick Cheney wants to take Mark Zuckerberg hunting.
What was George W. Bush’s position on Roe versus Wade? He didn’t care how people got out of New Orleans.
Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell said recently that Hollywood needs to re-evaluate what they’re doing because movies these days are all filled with gay sex and extramarital affairs. Have fun in Congress, Christine.
Federal taxes last year went down for 98 percent of people. A spokesman for the Teabaggers said, ‘We don’t want to just be taxed less. We want to be taxed less by a white guy.’
What did the bull say when he came out of the china shop? Darling, I’ve had a smashing good time.
Bob Hope told us that he had never won an award for acting. “Oscar night at my house is called Passover.”
How many vegetarians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? One, but where does she get her protein?
Why did Tofu cross the road? To prove she wasn’t chicken.
The American podiatrist and the Scottish chiropodist were arch rivals.
Where is that bird going? To a place called Cheep Trills.
How long was I at university? Six foot one. (185 centimeters)
I copied this from Hieronymous Bosch and put Elise and me in there. Hieronymous = Holy Name = Gerónimo = Jerome.
The average woman walks about three more miles per day than the average man.
If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the ‘terminal’?
“No one ever says “It’s only a game,” when their team is winning. And no one who is 18 ever says, “Age is a state of mind.”
Guitar players spend half their time tuning their instrument and the other half playing out of tune.
This morning as I was buttoning my shirt, a button fell off. After that, I picked up my guitar case, and the handle fell off. Then I went to open the door, and the doorknob fell off. I went to get into my car, and the door handle came off in my hand. Now I’m afraid to pee.
How many singers does it take to change a light bulb? None. Get the drummer to do it.
She had quite a range at the low end of the scale. In fact, they called her the deep C diva
You can take all the sincerity in Hollywood, place it in the navel of a fruit fly, and still have room enough for three caraway seeds and a producer’s heart. Fred Allen
Did you hear about the horse with the negative atitude? She always said neigh.
Usually, noses smell and feet run, but sometimes noses run and feet smell.
She puts hats on her dogs and drives them around the freeways, so she can use the carpool lanes.
I began with nothing…not only that but when I was a few days old they took something away from me.
I know a guy who went to Cal. He could have gone to UCSB but that would have been one more letter to remember.
You tasted like chicken. I love you, man!
A guilty conscience is the mother of invention.
What about all those detergents and other chemicals that are going straight into our rivers and then into the oceans? If this keeps up we’re going to have a ring around the country.
Imagine life with no microwave. What did we do? It took an hour to bake a potato.
If you were on top of the Empire State Building and you took a penny and threw it off the Empire State Building and it killed your worst enemy, is that what you would want? But talk about getting your money’s worth.
Cars should have phones in them and the phone number should be the same as the license plate number, so you could call people up and tell them either to get out of the way, or come over to your house later.
Crime does pay. The hours are good, you get to travel a lot, and look at the friends you will have.
The way things are is the only obstacle to happiness.
I can’t even find someone for a platonic relationship, much less the kind where someone wants to see me naked.
Our courtship was fast and furious. I was fast and she was furious.
A necrophiliac only wants you for your body.
I’ve been on so many blind dates, I should get a free dog.
In some countries the penalty for shoplifting is marriage.
Not the sharpest Samurai sword in the box. He reads the obituaries every morning and he just can’t understand how people always die in alphabetical order.
Eternity, I mean, where is it going to end?
That crazy bandido who broke into a house and stole the remote control? Now he drives by every night and changes the channel.
The son was sitting at the bedside of his elderly father, who was dying. “Where do you want to be buried, Forest Lawn or New York City?” The father gets up on his elbow and says, “Surprise me!”
One thing about women and men. We die sooner.
Diet exercise: Place both hands against the table. Push back.
There’s someone at every party who eats all the celery.
Is she fat? She thinks gravy is a beverage. Her favorite food is seconds.
I have a wonderful doctor. Once, when I couldn’t afford an operation, she touched up the X-rays.
Apprioximately 97% of all statistics are made up.
Remember the guy who tried to rob from the ATM? He drew a picture of a gun on his debit card along with a note that said, “This is a stickup.”
If Shaw and Einstein couldn’t beat death, what chance have I got? Practically none.
Nurse: There’s an invisible man in your waiting room. Doctor: Tell him I can’t see him now.
How many Republicans does it take to screw in a light bulb? None. They’ll let the next generation take care of that.
Conscience is that tiny voice that warns you just in time that someone may be looking.
An estimated 880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect cardholder information on their magnetic strips.
in the next seven days, 800 Americans will be injured by their jewelry.
Doctor: I’ve got good news and bad news. Patient: OK, give me the bad news. Doctor: You have Alzheimer’s. Patient: And the good news. Doctor: You can go home and forget about it. Patient: Forget about what?
If there is anyone here whom I have not invited, I beg her pardon.
Que sçais-je? The more I see, the less I know for sure.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. President Obama
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted.
Christ died for our sins. The least we can do is commit a few.
Sarah Palin will headline what is being called the first national tea party convention. It is expected to be the nation’s largest ever gathering of misspelled signs.
There’s been a lot of progress in medicine. No matter how ill you are the doctor can keep you alive long enough to pay your bill.
All in all, I’m just another brick in the wall.
Every little thing… will be all right.
Knowledge talks, wisdom listens.
Rush Limbaugh’s pit bull, Duke, bit another dog during a stop this week. People who were there said he was growling, foaming at the mouth, and completely out of control. And so was his pit bull.
See you next week.
The Colledge will the whole world measure,
Which most impossible conclude,
And Navigators make a pleasure,
By finding out the longitude.
Every Tarpalling shall with ease,
Sayle any ships to th’Antipodes. The Ballad of Gresham College 1660
A “tarpalling” was a tarpaulin, yes, but it also meant a sailor then, and probably is the origin of another name for a sailor, Jack Tar.
Where you are on the globe is measured by a series of coordinates called latitudes (how far north or south you are) and longitudes (how far east and west).
San Francisco, for example, is between 37 and 38 degrees north of the equator, and 122 degrees west of Greenwich, England.
Between extremes of climate farther north and south, the 38th North parallel line marks a temperate, middle latitude where human societies have thrived since the beginning of civilization.
The 38th parallel divides North and South Korea, passes through Athens and San Francisco, and bisects Mono Lake in the eastern Sierra Nevada.
If you follow the 37th, 38th latitude line, the parallel, around the world, you will see that it passes through Sicily, close to North Africa, Turkey, it’s farther south than you might think.
Almost all of Europe, except for the very bottom of Spain and a bit of Sicily, is north, often far north, of the 37-38th parallels.
Carolina Maria Teresa of Naples and Sicily lived on this line She was a lover of the arts and she knew Haydn.
Finding the latitude has always been a relatively simple matter for an experienced sailor, because latitude is based in nature, the equator and the poles.
For thousands of years, a good sailor knew how far north or south he was by the length of the day, by the height of the sun, or by certain stars.
Columbus could sail across the Atlantic on a straight line westward because he had long been comfortable finding his latitude.
Longitude, however, being determined by humans, is a whole other matter. The Prime Meridian, the 0 degree of longitude, doesn’t exist in nature. We have to agree where it is, and it has been in many places. The wonder is that it doesn’t pass through Washington DC, and that it has remained with the last world power in Greenwich, England, because the Prime Meridian has been politically placed in Jerusalem, Paris and many other capitals. It is a completely human idea, so finding how far east or west one is was long a serious problem, which became even more dire as shipping increased in the 16th, 17th, 18th centuries. There were many shipwrecks and much loss of life and treasure because vessels would run aground or be stranded at sea simply because they weren’t sure of how far east or west they were.
The Prime Meridian serves as the starting point for longitude measurement, so is indicated as 0 degrees longitude.
The Prime Meridian passes directly over the British Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, and it divides the planet into the eastern and western hemispheres.
Solving the “problem of longitude” was like finding the Fountain of Youth or changing lead into gold by alchemy. In the 17th century, finding a solution to the problem of longitude had the importance that finding a cure for cancer does now.
The solution to the longitude problem was long thought to be impossible and many strange theories were proposed for it.
Galileo Galilei actually found a system for finding longitude by reckoning from the satellites of Jupiter. Sailors couldn’t see the satellites from their vessels in the daytime, however, and in any case the headgear (the celatone) for navigating was too cumbersome to be practical at sea.
Jean Colbert founded the Académie Royale des Sciences mainly to solve the problem of longitude.
Louis XIV approved the building of an astronomical observatory at Paris for the same purpose.
Christiaan Huygens became a charter member of the Académie and also of the Royal Society in London.
Giovanni Domenico (Jean-Dominique) Cassini became a director of the Paris observatory.
“It is most plain, from the confusion that all these people [sailors] are in, how to make good their reckonings, even each man’s with itself, and the nonsensical arguments they would make use of to do it, and disorder they are in about it, that it is by God’s Almighty Providence and great chance, and the wideness of the sea, that there are not a great many more misfortunes and ill chances in navigation than there are.” Samuel Pepys 1683
In 1707, Admiral Sir Clowdesley Shovell was sure that he and his fleet of four warships were safely west of the Scilly Isles (often spelled Silly on old maps and pronounced that way). There is a story that the Admiral actually executed a sailor from one of those ships who had the effrontery to keep his own reckoning and who claimed that the navigation of the Navy was in error and that the ships would soon go aground.
Admiral Shovell’s ship, HMS Association, at 8 pm on 22 October (November 2, by the modern calendar) 1707, struck on the rocks near the Isles of Scilly along with several other ships, and was seen by those on board HMS St George to go down in three or four minutes’ time, not a soul being saved of 800 men that were on board. The Scilly naval disaster was one of the greatest in British maritime history. It was later determined that the main cause of the disaster was the navigators’ inability to accurately calculate their longitude. They couldn’t tell how far east or west they were.
Louise de Kérouaille, whom the diarist John Evelyn credited as having a “baby face,” but who was a very shrewd and clever woman, was instrumental in drawing the attention of Charles II to a young Frenchman, the sieur de St. Pierre, who proposed, or reproposed, rather, a lunar solution to the longitude problem.
The sieur de St. Pierre’s proposal was ineffective, but it led Charles to establish the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and to appoint John Flamsteed as Astronomer Royal.
Christopher Wren designed the Observatory at Greenwich with lodging for Flamsteed which is still called the Flamsteed House today.
Thus, both kings, Louis XIV and Charles II, saw astronomy as a means to a terrestrial end. The great vault of the heavens was called upon to aid the ships at sea on tiny planet earth.
Longitude and time are closely related. The world rotates or spins counterclockwise 360 degrees in 24 hours. 360 degrees divided by 24 equal 15 degrees per hour. The world has 24 time zones, each 15 degrees apart. There is one hour time difference for every 15 degrees of longitude.
Fifteen degrees of longitude equals 1 hour’s time difference. If it is 12 noon here, 15 degrees east it is 1 pm, and 15 degrees west it is 11 am. In a sense, the Earth itself is a clock. There are 24 hours in a day, the time needed for the sun to reach each mid-day, and there are 360 degrees around the Earth’s circumference. 360 divided into 24 parts is 15. The earth turns at a uniform rate, and mid-day, when the sun is at its highest, is always on the move, from east to west. The fixed reference point is not a place, but a time.
Gemma Frisius was one of the first people to appreciate the relationship between longitude and time. He set up a workshop to produce globes and mathematical instruments, and became noted for the quality and accuracy of his instruments, which were praised by Tycho Brahe, among others. In 1533, Frisius described for the first time the method of triangulation still used today in surveying. Twenty years later, he was the first to observe how an accurate clock could be used to determine longitude.
It began to dawn on clockmakers that a really accurate timepiece could solve the problem of longitude. Sailors could carry a clock set to local time along with them on the ship and they could compare the time at their home port with the time where they were at sea and would thus know how far east or west they were.
Gemma Frisius invented this ring dial in 1532. It was an ingenious device for finding longitude at sea, but it couldn’t withstand the rough rocking of the vessel, nor the changes in temperature that a sea voyage entails. The goal now was to build a sturdy, accurate clock.
Galileo and his son Vincenzio thought of the pendulum as a solution, but Christiaan Huygens actually built the first working pendulum clock.
On a trial voyage in 1660, Huygens’ clock was taken to the Cape Verde Islands and kept a fairly accurate track of the ships longitude out and back.
It was soon found that Huygens’ clocks worked in fair weather but not in foul, so he invented the spiral balance spring as an alternative to the pendulum, and patented the device in France in 1675.
Robert Hooke recorded that he conceived of a way to determine longitude, and he attempted to patent it. In the process, Hooke demonstrated a pocket-watch of his own devising, fitted with a coil spring attached to the arbor of the balance. Hooke’s ultimate failure to secure sufficiently lucrative terms for the exploitation of this idea resulted in its being shelved, and evidently caused him to become more jealous of his inventions. There is substantial evidence that Hooke developed the balance spring independently of and some fifteen years before Huygens, who had published his own work in Journal de Scavans in February 1675.
While these worthies were coming ever closer to solving the problem of longitude, the prizes being offered for a solution drew many crackpots and charlatans out of the woodwork.
Take the wounded dog theory, for example. The dog could be cured by the powder of sympathy, which was purported to heal at a distance, but the curing was momentarily painful and would cause the dog to bark.
Sir Kenelm Digby discovered a powder in southern France that could be sprinkled on a bandage which would hasten the closing of a wound. The bandage didn’t have to be on the person.
Put a wounded dog on a ship, leave behind a confederate to dip the dog’s bandage into the powder every day at noon, and the dog’s yelp would tell the sailor when it was noon in London.
Difficult to tell if this idea was science or satire, but there were many other zany “solutions” to the problem of longitude.
William Whiston and Humphry Ditton, two mathematicians, thought that loud sounds could be a signal to those at sea. Boats were to be anchored at 600 mile intervals and they would fire cannon or bombs to make loud sounds and thus be a kind of sonic landmark. This impractical plan was soon abandoned.
Meanwhile back in the horological world, Jeremy Thacker of Beverly, England, a truly lovely place, made a clock in a glass vacuum chamber and called it a “chronometer,” the first use of the word.
The glass housing was a good idea and so was the use of paired winding rods that would keep the instrument going when it was being wound.
Thacker also suspended the chronometer in gimbals to keep it stable in a storm.
The term chronometer (coined in 1714 by Thacker, an early competitor for the prize set by the Longitude Act in the same year) is used more recently to describe wristwatches tested and certified to meet certain precision standards. Timepieces made in Switzerland may only display the word ‘chronometer’ if certified by the COSC (Official Swiss Testing Institute).
The marine chronometer is no longer used as the primary means for navigation at sea, although it is still required as a backup, since radio systems and their associated electronics can fail for a variety of reasons.
The longitude prize was 20,000 pounds. To win that sum of money, which would be perhaps £10 million today, the timepiece had to be accurate within a half a degree. That is, the clock could not gain or lose more than three seconds in twenty-four hours. Thacker’s chronometer fell far short of this goal, but it was the most important work received by the members of the Board of Longitude in their first year.
The ultimate winner of the prize, John Harrison, was born in West Yorkshire, 24 March 1693.
He lived for six or seven years on the Nostell Priory Estate, where his father was the estate carpenter.
In 1700, the family moved to the small Lincolnshire village of Barrow upon Humber where John learned to play the viol and to tune the church bells where he was a choirmaster.
John Harrison had the autodidact’s thirst for learning, and a visiting clergyman loaned him a manuscript copy of a lecture series on natural philosophy (science) by mathematician Nicholas Saunderson of Cambridge University.
This book became more than a bible to John Harrison. He kept it for years, copying every phrase, annotating, editing, making it his, memorizing it, drawing and labeling every diagram, calling his copy “Mr. Saunderson’s Mechanicks.”
Harrison made his first pendulum clock in 1713, a little before his twentieth birthday. The inscription reads: ‘Long case clock. Movement by John Harrison. Oak dial with date aperture. 8 day striking movement. Anchor escapement. Keyholes concealed behind lower spandrels. The earliest known clock by JH made when he was 20 years old. Signed John Harrison 1713 in ink on the calendar wheel.’
The port of Hull, the third largest port in England, was only five miles from Harrison’s home in Barrow, so he would have heard about the Longitude Prize very early.
In any case, prize or no, the problem would have been a very interesting one for John Harrison.
Harrison made this pendulum clock when he was 24.
Sir Charles Pelham, aware of Harrison’s growing reputation as a clockmaker, hired him to build a tower clock above the new stable at Brocklesby Park.
The instrument was also known as a turret clock.
The clock that Harrison built at Brocklesby Park has been running for more than 270 years.
The works run without lubrication, because Harrison used lignum vitae (guiacum officinale), a naturally oily wood, in their construction. He used wood wherever possible to avoid rust, and when he had to have metal, he used brass but there was steel in one important place in the clock.
By inventing a pendulum rod made of alternate wires of brass and steel, Harrison eliminated the problem of the pendulum’s effective length increasing in warmer weather, slowing the clock. These alternating wires (called a “gridiron”) also counteracted the accelerating effect of cold weather.
As a result, Harrison’s regulators from this period achieved an accuracy of one second in a month, a performance far exceeding the best London clocks of the day.
Another invention that was to anticipate John Harrison’s work on marine chronometers was the “grasshopper escapement,” which eliminated the friction in former escapements.
An escapement, part of every mechanical clock, is the mechanism that causes the clock’s gears to move forward by a fixed distance at regular intervals and also gives the pendulum (or the balance wheel) periodic pushes to keep it swinging. The term “grasshopper” in this connection, apparently from the kicking action of the pallets, first appears in The Horological Journal in the late 19th century.
Two advantages of the grasshopper escapement are the repeatability of its operation and its freedom from the need for lubrication. The repeatability of its operation is inherent in its design. One pallet is released only by the engagement of the other; the impulse given to the pendulum is thus completely regular in its timing.
The above clock was made in response to The Longitude Act of 1714, and with it John Harrison achieved extraordinarily accurate timekeeping on land, a second a month, something never achieved before. This is all wood and the workmanship is beautiful. The maker was an artist who had an intimate understanding of the different properties of timber, of how one kind of wood might expand and another contract, and how to join them together so they counteracted each other, much as the brass and steel in the gridiron pendulum did.
Harrison was a joiner, what Shakespeare called a “rude mechanical.” Joiner was the old word for carpenter, and John Harrison came from Yorkshire. These two facts, his origin and his occupation, made Harrison an object of ridicule to the shallow, supercilious snobs of science who sniffed snuff in their aristocratic, astronomical London drawing rooms. In the series of films by Michael Apted that began with 7 Up, and chronicle the lives of fourteen children every seven years until they are now 56, there is a nuclear scientist who came from Yorkshire and he is still sensitive about his origins and his Yorkshire drawl, still sensitive even after a long and exemplary career doing and teaching subatomic science.
Few scientists, including Sir Isaac Newton, thought a sufficiently accurate timekeeper was possible, so that when a country carpenter, Harrison, set about developing timekeepers to determine longitude at sea, there was a lot of skepticism, particularly from the Board of Longitude, many of whom were astronomers and who favored a heavenly lunar solution to the problem of longitude.
Exasperated, Harrison went to King George III who upon hearing his story replied, “By God, Harrison, I will see you righted!” His Majesty intervened with parliament and Harrison received a financial award and was recognized for his extraordinary achievement.
George III was an avid, if amateur, scientist and his own observations told him that the H5 kept time to 1/3 of a second a day, a phenomenal feat of accuracy in an age when a regular pocket-watch kept time to a minute a day. Eventually, the king called the Harrisons, father and son, before him and advised them on a course of action. He suggested that the two petition Parliament into giving them the twenty thousand pounds of prize-money and told them that if Parliament refused, to further add that the King himself would enter the chamber and address the entire house.
Harrison submitted a project in 1730, and in 1735 completed a clock based on a pair of counter-oscillating weighted beams connected by springs whose motion was not influenced by gravity or the motion of a ship.
H1 is truly a companion piece to the precision pendulum clocks. Not only are their movements similar, H1 was also made in the same workshop, in Barrow-upon-Humber. H1′s movement is recognizably an evolution from the precision pendulum clocks, and a surprising amount of the movement is made of oak and lignum vitae.
Harrison’s first two sea timepieces H1 and H2 (above, completed in 1741) used this system, but he realised that they had a fundamental sensitivity to centrifugal force, which meant that they could never be accurate enough at sea.
Construction of his third machine, designated H3, in 1759 included novel circular balances and the invention of the bi-metallic strip and caged roller bearings, inventions which are still widely used. However, H3′s circular balances still proved too inaccurate and he eventually abandoned the large machines.
Harrison solved the precision problems with his much smaller H4 chronometer design in 1761. H4 looked much like a large five-inch (12 cm) diameter pocket watch.
In 1761, Harrison submitted H4 for the £20,000 longitude prize. His design used a fast-beating balance wheel controlled by a temperature-compensated spiral spring. These features remained in use until stable electronic oscillators allowed very accurate portable timepieces to be made at affordable cost.
Harrison’s son, Joseph, agreed to test his father’s watch. Joseph boarded a ship, the HMS Deptford and set sail for Jamaica. After weeks at sea, Joseph Harrison determined that his father’s watch was off by a mere five seconds.
H4 has been called the most important timekeeper ever made. This was a great feat of engineering and technology, thought to be impossible by many of the greatest scientists of the 18th century, including Sir Isaac Newton.
In 1767, the Board of Longitude published a description of his work in The Principles of Mr. Harrison’s time-keeper.
The longitude problem was eventually solved by a working class joiner from Lincolnshire/Yorkshire with little formal education. John Harrison took on the scientific and academic establishment of his time and won the longitude prize through extraordinary mechanical insight, talent and determination.
Three of Harrison’s early wooden clocks have survived; the first (1713) is in London, at the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers’ Collection in Guildhall.
The second (1715), is in the Science Museum,
which is a most interesting place to visit should you find yourself in London.
The third surviving early wooden clock by John Harrison (1717) is at Nostell Priory in Yorkshire, where Harrison’s father had worked as the estate carpenter.
Many artists’ work is never truly appreciated until after they’re dead, and Harrison certainly belongs to this group. Although he never recieved the fame and acclaim that he had hoped for while he was alive, Harrison’s lifetime of intense work and concentration was its own reward for a man of his caliber.
John Harrison has a memorial in Westminster Abbey. Through the dedication stone is a bimetallic strip, representing one of Harrison’s key inventions. The strip is aligned to, and marked with, the meridian that runs through the stone, 000 degrees, 07 minutes, 35 seconds West of Greenwich Observatory.
In the early 1970s, at a dinner where he was the honored guest at 10 Downing Street, Neil Armstrong proposed a toast to John Harrison. Harrison’s inventions, his extremely accurate timekeepers, Armstrong noted, enabled men to explore the Earth with precision and, when most of the Earth had been explored, to dare to build navigation systems for voyages to the Moon.
Thank you, John Harrison. Here’s to a happy and successful week ahead for everyone.