June 10, 2014
You might know Emma Taylor’s book sculptures. They are lovely creations: intricate, serene, and alive. Her work is reminiscent of the anonymous book art that began appearing in Edinburgh a few years ago, but the identity of the latter remains unknown.
[NB: I initially believed the two artists were the same, and have edited the above to clarify. Sorry about that.]
Ms. Taylor has a Tumblr blog showcasing her work: From Within a Book, to which I now direct your attention. The main page has assorted photos, links, and notes, including works in progress. There’s also a selection of completed sculptures. She writes:
To me the possibility of the end of the book is a tragic one; I appreciate books as an object as much as I enjoy the stories and knowledge which they hold.
This appreciation surely grows in those exposed to her art: think how a beginning reader with their first library card would react upon seeing these miniature worlds that seem to grow out of the very pages of each book, the text embodied in a study of itself.
As a child I adored ‘make and do’, tugging and taping paper into all sorts of three-dimensional entities – all quite crude and disposable, but transporting nonetheless. Peggy Nelson, in her analysis of pop-up books, put it nicely: “we were not content with surfaces”.
Here’s a short clip showcasing Taylor’s book sculptures from 2013:
And a longer and very interesting behind-the-scenes video showing step by step how she turned a copy of John Galsworthy’s Swan Song into a ‘Swan Song’ of her own:
January 17, 2014
On a walk in Galway once I met a Polish couple poring over a map. We were going the same way, and fell into step. They were in town for an Esperanto conference, and when the man – an Esperanto playwright – learned I had an interest in languages, he eagerly gave me a crash course in its grammar as we manoeuvred the uneven paths and busy streets.
It was a fun experience, but it remains the only proper exposure I’ve had to spoken Esperanto. More recently I encountered the language again, not in the flesh but in the form of a film: I wrote a post about films of linguistic interest, and the comments soon filled up with tips; Edward Banatt suggested Incubus.
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September 29, 2013
The short clip below is from the BBC Four documentary Mechanical Marvels: Clockwork Dreams on the history of automata, narrated by Prof. Simon Schaffer. It shows a mechanical boy known as the writer, the brainchild of Pierre Jaquet-Droz (1721–90), a Swiss watchmaker who became renowned for this and similar works.
The writer comprises about 6000 parts and contains 40 replaceable interior cams that allow it to write – using a goose-feather quill – any text of up to 40 characters. In other words, it’s programmable. The machine has an uncanny quality charged by the movement of its eyes as they follow the composition of letters and the refilling of the quill with fresh ink (which it briefly shakes, to prevent blotting).*
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August 27, 2013
I’ll assume readers know that the ‘Eskimos have X words for snow’ idea is essentially a myth and a hackneyed journalistic trope. So I won’t elaborate on it here, except to note that the claim is so notorious in linguistic circles it gave rise to snowclone, a handy term for this kind of clichéd phrasal template.
It turns out, though, that there are quite a few words for snow (and, OK, ice) in Scotland.* Ian Preston sent me a recent photo he took of an art installation in the lobby of the Cairngorm Funicular Railway, republished here with his permission:
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July 31, 2013
“Support”, by Tom Humberstone:
[click to enlarge]
I love Exclamation Mark’s happy bafflement, and the last two frames tie the strip together very nicely (though for comic timing and pathos I’d have put the ellipsis between them rather than before them).
I don’t think I have anything to say about the Jay Z hyphen non-story – but if you do, I’m all ears.
You can see more of the artist’s work at the New Statesman and on Humberstone’s own website.
May 31, 2013
Marcus Lodwick’s The Gallery Companion: Understanding Western Art describes Saint George as “a totally legendary saint whose existence has been in doubt since the fifth century”.
The flavours of both totally and legendary have – for me at least – shifted markedly through informal usage, interfering with the intended tone. Reading the line, I was (totally) distracted by the phrase totally legendary, even though the relative clause (“whose existence has been in doubt…”) and general context left no doubt as to its meaning.
painting by Raphael
In common currency totally is like absolutely: often more a general intensifier or expression of hearty agreement than anything necessarily to do with totality or absoluteness. An example from the GloWbE corpus: “Seems totally harsh for them teachers huh?”
Legendary has been weakened by loose usage to the point where almost any degree of renown or achievement may be granted the description; similar trends with legend and its spin-off ledge(bag) – peculiarly Irish, I think – complete the inflationary effect.
The following (mildly parodic) fictional dialogue may serve to illustrate:
This bus driver is always on time – such a ledge!
Remember the time she gave us chocolate?
Yeah, that was totally legendary.
Completely. Hey, is that Saint George you’re reading about?
Didn’t he, like, slay the dragon?
What a legend!
I mean like existentially.
February 18, 2013
Image from Anarchy Comics #1, 1978, edited by Jay Kinney.
For readers unfamiliar with the idiom: eat one’s words means retract what one has said, take back a statement, admit an error. So it’s similar to eating humble pie (whose origins are surprisingly visceral), and worth comparing with laughing on the other side of your face.
“You gotta break an omelet to make an egg”, of course, reverses the natural entropic order, playing with a proverb (“You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”) to make a political point. If you’re interested in the comic’s history, here’s a recent interview with Kinney at BoingBoing.