1955: Tomorrow is Never

Kay Sage - Tomorrow is Never (1955)

Kay Sage: Tomorrow is Never (1955)

DESTINY

If I turn back
at least I shall not have
the sun in my face.
But then there will always be
the long shadow of myself
before me.

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1592: More Books on Books

Anthony van Leest (After Rue de Montorgueil) - Saint Matthew seated and reading from a book held by a putto, set within a fanciful architectural backdrop (1565-1575)

All I can say is that you can feel from experience that so many interpretations dissipate the truth and break it up. Aristotle wrote to be understood: if he could not manage it, still less will a less able man (or a third party) manage to do better than Aristotle, who was treating his own concepts. By steeping our material we macerate it and stretch it. Out of one subject we make a thousand and sink into Epicurus’ infinitude of atoms by proliferation and subdivision. Never did two men ever judge identically about anything, and it is impossible to find two opinions which are exactly alike, not only in different men but in the same men at different times. I normally find matter for doubt in what the gloss has not condescended to touch upon. Like certain horses I know which miss their footing on a level path, I stumble more easily on the flat.

Can anyone deny that glosses increase doubts and ignorance, when there can be found no book which men toil over in either divinity or the humanities whose difficulties have been exhausted by exegesis? The hundredth commentator dispatches it to his successor prickling with more difficulties than the first commentator of all had ever found in it. Do we ever agree among ourselves that “this book already has enough glosses: from now on there is no more to be said on it?” That can be best seen from legal quibbling. We give force of law to an infinite number of legal authorities, an infinite number of decisions and just as many interpretations. Yet do we ever find an end to our need to interpret? Can we see any progress or advance towards serenity? Do we need fewer lawyers and judges than when that lump of legality was in its babyhood?

On the contrary we obscure and bury the meaning: we can no longer discern it except by courtesy of those many closures and palisades. Men fail to recognize the natural sickness of their mind which does nothing but range and ferret about, ceaselessly twisting and contriving and, like our silkworms, becoming entangled in its own works: “Mus in pice.” [A mouse stuck in pitch.] It thinks it can make out in the distance some appearance of light, of conceptual truth: but, while it is charging towards it, so many difficulties, so many obstacles and fresh diversions strew its path that they make it dizzy and it loses its way. The mind is not all that different from those dogs in Aesop which, descrying what appeared to be a corpse floating on the sea yet being unable to get at it, set about lapping up the water so as to dry out a path to it, and suffocated themselves. And that coincides with what was said about the writings of Heraclitus by Crates: they required a reader to be a good swimmer, so that the weight of his doctrine should not pull him under nor its depth drown him.

It is only our individual weakness which makes us satisfied with what has been discovered by others or by ourselves in this hunt for knowledge: an abler man will not be satisfied with it. There is always room for a successor—yes, even for ourselves—and a different way to proceed. There is no end to our inquiries: our end is in the next world.

When the mind is satisfied, that is a sign of diminished faculties or weariness. No powerful mind stops within itself: it is always stretching out and exceeding its capacities. it makes sorties which go beyond what it can achieve: it is only half-alive if it is not advancing, pressing forward, getting driven into a corner and coming to blows; its inquiries are shapeless and without limits; its nourishment consists in amazement, the hunt and uncertainty, as Apollo made clear enough to us by his speaking (as always) ambiguously, obscurely and obliquely, not glutting us but keeping us wondering and occupied. It is an irregular activity, never-ending and without pattern or target. Its discoveries excite each other, follow after each other and between them produce more.

Ainsi voit l’on, en un ruisseau coulant,
Sans fin l’une eau apres l’autre roulant,
Et tout de rang, d’un eternel conduict,
L’une suit l’autre, et l’une l’autre fuyt.
Par cette-cy celle-là est poussée,
Et cette-cy par l’autre est devancée:
Tousjours l’eau va dans l’eau, et tousjours est-ce
Mesme ruisseau, et toujours eau diverse.

[Thus do we see in a flowing stream water rolling endlessly on water, ripple upon ripple, as in its unchanging bed water flees and water pursues, the first water driven by what follows and drawn on by what went before, water eternally driving into water—even the same stream with its waters ever-changing.]

It is more of a business to interpret the interpretations than to interpret the texts, and there are more books on books than on any other subject: all we do is gloss each other.

Montaigne, “On Experience”

The text is from the edition of Montaigne’s essays that he was preparing when he died in 1592; the lines quoted are from a poem written by Étienne de La Boétie to his wife, Marguerite de Carle.

Image:
Anthony van Leest (After Rue de Montorgueil): Saint Matthew (1565-1575)

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1978: Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

Neal Adams - Superman vs Muhammad Ali (1978) [detail]

Who would win in a fight—Superman or Muhammad Ali?

The two duked it out in a 1978 comic. An evil space alien named Rat’Lar brings an armada to earth and claims that Earthlings’ warlike ways pose a threat to his race, the Scrubb; he demands that Earth’s greatest fighter battle the Scrubb champion Hun’Ya.

But a question arises: who is Earth’s greatest champion? Both Superman and Muhammad Ali step forward to volunteer, with Ali arguing that since Superman is actually himself an alien from the planet Krypton, Ali should wear the mantle.

Rat’Lar’s solution is to have Superman and Ali fight one another on the Scrubb home planet, which, orbiting a red star, will temporarily vitiate Superman’s powers. The event is broadcast on intergalactic television to thousands of planets, with Jimmy Olsen calling the fight.

Ali dominates in the bout, and, just as he pauses to call for a technical victory, Superman falls flat on his face, knocked outAli wins!

Neal Adams - Superman vs Muhammad Ali (1978) C

Ali also goes on to beat the Scrubb champion, with, perhaps surprisingly, the goddess Athena making an appearance to serve as referee.

The cover of the comic featured a host of 70’s celebrities in attendance at the fight, including Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller, The Jackson 5, Jerry Garcia, Liberace, and Andy Warholas well as a number of staff and characters from DC comics and Mad magazine. Wikipedia has the full list.

Neal Adams - Superman vs Muhammad Ali (1978)

DC also printed promotional tickets for the event:

Superman vs Muhammad Ali Promotional Ticket (1978)

Artists:
Penciller: Neal Adams
Inkers: Dick Giordano, Terry Austin
Letterer: Gaspar Saladino
Colorist: Cory Adams

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1874: Seascape

Alfred Thompson Bricher - Seascape (1874)

Alfred Thompson Bricher: Seascape (1874)

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1979: Westside Dreams

Daniel Salazar - Westside Dreams (1979)

Daniel Salazar: Westside Dreams (1979)

This photo shows the National Chicano Dance Theater posing in front of the Denver skyline in 1979, I think probably as part of a promotional shoot for Daniel Valdez’s play Zoot Suit, which debuted that year. The play is based on the Zoot Suit Riots and the Sleepy Lagoon trial of the early 1940’s. Valdez also directed a film version of the play. I’ve found one alternative version of the photo:

Daniel Salazar - Westside Dreams (1979) - 2

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1816: The World Was about to Come to an End

Paul Sandby, Jr. - The Marketplace, Montréal [The old Notre Dame Church in Place d'Armes, Montreal] (ca. 1790)

In 1881, Jedediah Hubbell Dorwin published some recollections of living in Montreal based on his extensive journals and scrapbooks. The following was reprinted in many newspapers at the time:

On the morning of Sunday, November 8, 1819, the sun rose upon a cloudy sky, which assumed, as the light grew upon it, a strange greenish tint, varying in places to an inky blackness. After a short time the whole sky became terribly dark, dense black clouds filling the atmosphere, and there followed a heavy shower of rain, which appeared to be something of the nature of soapsuds, and was found to have deposited after settling a substance is all its qualities resembling soot. Late in the afternoon the sky cleared to its natural aspect, and the day was fine and frosty. On the morning of Tuesday, the 10th, heavy clouds again covered the sky, and changed rapidly from a deep green to a pitchy black, and the sun, when occasionally seen through them, was sometimes of a dark brown or an unearthly yellow color, and again bright orange, and even blood red. The clouds constantly deepened in color and density, and later on a heavy vapor seemed to descend to the earth, and the day became almost as dark as night, the gloom increasing and diminishing most fitfully. At noon lights had to be burned in the court-house, the banks, and public offices of the city. Everybody was more or less alarmed, and many were the conjectures as to the cause of the remarkable occurrence. The more sensible thought that immense woods or prairies were on fire somewhere to the west; others said that a great volcano must have broken out in the Province; still others asserted that our mountain was an extinct crater about to resume operations and to make of the city a second Pompeii; the superstitious quoted an old Indian prophecy that one day the Island of Montreal was to be destroyed by an earthquake, and some even cried that the world was about to come to an end.

About the middle of the afternoon a great body of clouds seemed to rush suddenly over the city, and the darkness became that of night. A pause and hush for a moment or two succeded, and then one of the most glaring flashes of lightning ever beheld flamed over the country, accompanied by a clap of thunder which seemed to shake the city to its foundations. Another pause followed, and then came a light shower of rain of the same soapy and sooty nature as that of two days before. After that it appeared to grow brighter, but an hour later it was as dark as ever. Another rush of clouds came, and another vivid flash of lightning, which was seen to strike the spire of the old French parish church and to play curiously about the large iron cross at its summit before descending to the ground. A moment later came the climax of the day. Every bell in the city suddenly rang out the alarm of fire, and the affrighted citizens rushed out from their houses into the streets and made their way in the gloom toward the church, until Place d’Armes was crowded with people, their nerves all unstrung by the events of the day, gazing at, but scarcely daring to approach the strange sight before them. The sky above and around was as black as ink, but right in one spot in mid-air above them was the summit of the spire, with the lightning playing about it shining like a sun. Directly the great iron cross, together with the ball at its foot, fell to the ground with a crash, and was shivered to pieces. But the darkest hour is just before dawn. The glow above gradually subsided and died out, and people grew less fearful and returned to their homes, the real night came on, and when next morning dawned everything was bright and clear, and the world was as natural as before. The phenomenon was noticed in a greater or less degree from Quebec to Kingston, and far into the States, but Montreal seemed its center. It has never yet been explained.

A contemporary account appeared in the Newbern, North Carolina Sentinel on December 11, 1819. See also The Dark Day.

Image:
Paul Sandby, Jr.:  The old Notre Dame Church in Place d’Armes, Montreal (ca. 1790)

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1867: Distant View

Frederick Leighton - Distant View of Mountains in the Aegean Sea (1867)

Frederick Leighton: Distant View of Mountains in the Aegean Sea (1867)

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1808: Squares Eight Times Eight

Peter Pratt - The Theory of Chess (1799)

It was a fancy of the eccentric Mr. Pratt…to propose a game of Chess to a friend after dinner without Chessboard and men, and stipulate that instead of describing the moves with the usual prosaic abbreviations, a sort of poetical paraphrasis in the shape of rhyming couplets should be adopted. A good deal of amusement was sometimes created by the difficulty the second player would have, not in answering his opponent’s move, but in finding an appropriate rhyme to describe his own. (source)

Peter Pratt was the author of The Theory of Chess (1799) and Studies of Chess (1808); the latter contains “Caïssa,” a poem by William Jones that describes the chessboard in a game played between two fairies:

Squares eight times eight in equal order lie;
These bright as snow, those dark with sable dye;
Like the broad target by the tortoise born,
Or like the hide by spotted panthers worn.
Then from a chest, with harmless heroes stor’d,
O’er the smooth plain two well-wrought hosts he pour’d;
The champions burn’d their rivals to assail,
Twice eight in black, twice eight in milkwhite mail;
In shape and station different, as in name,
Their motions various, nor their power the same.

Say, muse! (for Jove has nought from thee conceal’d)
Who form’d the legions on the level field ?

High in the midst the reverend kings appear,
And o’er the rest their pearly sceptres rear:
One solemn step, majestically slow,
They gravely move, and shun the dangerous foe;
If e’er they call, the watchful subjects spring,
And die with rapture if they save their king;
On him the glory of the day depends,
He once imprison’d, all the conflict ends.

The queens exulting near their consorts stand;
Each bears a deadly falchion in her hand;
Now here, now there, they bound with furious pride,
And thin the trembling ranks from side to side;
Swift as Camilla flying o’er the main,
Or lightly skimming o’er the dewy plain:
Fierce as they seem, some bold Plebeian spear
May pierce their shield, or stop their full career.

The valiant guards, their minds on havock bent,
Fill the next squares, and watch the royal tent;
Tho’ weak their spears, tho’ dwarfish be their height,
Compact they move, the bulwark of the fight.

To right and left the martial wings display
Their shining arms, and stand in close array.
Behold, four archers, eager to advance,
Send the light reed, and rush with sidelong glance;
Through angles ever they assault the foes,
True to the colour, which at first they chose.
Then four bold knights for courage fam’d and speed,
Each knight exalted on a prancing steed:
Their arching course no vulgar limit knows,
Transverse they leap, and aim insidious blows:

Nor friends, nor foes, their rapid force restrain,
By one quick bound two changing squares they gain;
From varying hues renew the fierce attack,
And rush from black to white, from white to black.
Four solemn elephants the sides defend;
Beneath the load of ponderous towers they bend:
In one unalter’d line they tempt the fight;
Now crush the left, anti now o’erwhelm the right.
Bright in the front the dauntless soldiers raise
Their polish’d spears; their steely helmets blaze:
Prepar’d they stand the daring foe to strike,
Direct their progress, but their wounds oblique.

Jones had written the poem in 1763 at the age of 17. In the poem the nymph Caïssa is pursued in love by Mars, the god of war. Initially spurned by Caïssa, Mars asks for help from Euphron, the god of sport, who then creates chess as a gift for Mars to win Caissa’s heart. Caïssa has since been known as the goddess of chess.

Jones would later coin the term Indo-European to name the common ancestor language of many Indian and European languages.

Facts, strengthened by analogy, may lead us to suppose the existence of a primeval language in Upper India, which may be called Hindi, and that the Sanscrit was introduced into it by conquerors from other kingdoms in some very remote age.The Sanscrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists; there is a similar reason, though not quite so forcible, for supposing that both the Gothic and the Celtic, though blended with a very different idiom, had the same origin with the Sanscrit; and the old Persian might be added to the same family. (source)

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1250 BC: The Gurob Ship-Cart

Gurob Ship-Cart Model (Egypt, New Kingdom, c 1250-1150 BC)

This wooden model of a ship on a wheeled cart was found in Gurob, Egypt in 1920and dates from the thirteenth or twelfth century BC. Although carts like this were used simply to transport ships from one place to another, the shape and decorations of this particular model indicate that the ship it represents was designed to travel only on land as part of a religious ritual in Mycenaean Greece.

Shelley Wachsmann’s book about the ship-cart has a “digital supplement” with 3D reconstructions of the object here.

A modern Islamic festival in Luxor, the Moulid of Abu El Haggag, features boats on wheels, and likely descends from a pharaonic ritual of ancient Egypt:

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1926: The Black Pirate

The Hochi-Shimbun, 15 October 1926

Advertisements in The Hochi-Shimbun, October 15, 1926.

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