Wednesday, October 18, 2006

a letter from John Collins

I'm testing the ImageShack photo hosting service.

The image shows a page from a draft letter from John Collins to Henry Oldenburg for delivery to Gottfried Leibniz.

You can read the text of this message in Rigaud's Correspondence of scientific men of the seventeenth century. It's item LXXXV, pp. 243-8. The letter has no date and Rigaud doesn't provide one. From context, I'd guess Collins wrote it in 1676.

The image comes from the Macclesfield Collection at Cambridge University (UK)
The reference is "Draft Letter from John Collins to Henry Oldenburg for Leibnitz. Add.9597/13/5/77,r. Author: Collins, John, 1625-1683"

Saturday, October 07, 2006

hodge podge

I never do blog posts that simply list other blog posts. And also I never say never. This little round-up comes from sightings on Arts and Letters Daily, Arts Journal, and the blog alerts in my personalized Yahoo page.

Greig Watson writes up Britain's National Poetry Day on the BBC web site: Brave voices sing poetry's praise. He's predictably enthusiastic -- and simultaneously somewhat skeptical -- about bringing the occasion out of "the quiet church halls," making poetry relevant, and finding for it a mass market. He quotes Tishani Doshi (pictured right) who says poetry shouldn't be taken as an indulgence and Michael Horovitz who says poetry "can remind human beings of their original qualities, a beating heart, a speaking mind and a singing voice." {photo credit: BBC}

Brahms knew how to keep celebrity from crushing him. Jan Swafford explains in Slate: Classic Put-Downs; Was Brahms a wiseass?

The article is full of amusing, revealing anecdotes. Like this:
When a lady gushed to him, "How do you write such divine adagios?" he only shrugged, "My publisher orders 'em that way." Once a singer asked which of his songs he might recommend. With straight face, he advised her to try his posthumous ones. "And which?" she asked politely. That was too good; he had to spread it around. "Ask Kalbeck," he told her. "He knows everything." So, she did go and ask his friend and future biographer Max Kalbeck to recommend some of Brahms's posthumous lieder, inspiring Kalbeck to collapse with laughter. When the lady appeared afterward in a huff, Brahms was, for him, kindly: "Dear lady, don't ask me such things. I'll usually just make some sort of a joke—and if a good one doesn't occur to me, then a bad one."
{photo credit: Slate}

Christopher Hitchens -- him of all people -- writes up I.F. Stone in Vanity Fair: I. F. Stone’s Mighty Pen, a review of a new biography by Myra MacPherson, All Governments Lie. Not surprisingly, Htchens, who succeeded him at The Nation, tries to make a case for Izzy as a supporter of Bush's adventures in the Near East (were he around today). He says the man was a consumate internationalist who hated dictators (fair enough), attacked anti-semitism whenever he encountered it, and opposed American isolationism. But those things wouldn't be enough to put him in the Bush camp. He'd be more likely to skewer Bush for subverting the constitutional separation of powers, illegally spying on citizens, crushing the economy, escalating gross inequality among Americans, and trampling human rights. For all that, Hitchens gives a couple of good anecdotes. Here's his favorite quote, from a write up of the infamous Republican convention in Miami, 1968: "It was hard to listen to Goldwater and realize that a man could be half Jewish and yet sometimes appear to be twice as dense as the normal gentile. As for Agnew, even at a convention where every speech seemed to outdo the other in wholesome clichés and delicious anticlimaxes, his speech putting Nixon into nomination topped all the rest. If the race that produced Isaiah is down to Goldwater and the race that produced Pericles is down to Agnew, the time has come to give the country back to the WASPs."

{photo caption by Vanity Fair: I. F. Stone, photographed by Sylvia Plachy in Washington, D.C., in September 1982.

Who reads George Will? I guess I've scanned columns from time to time, but he's always seemed alien, partisan (for the other side), unstimulating. I recall his affection for Nancy Reagan and noted his distrust to this Bush regime. Still, it's probably a marker for the current state of Republicanism that Will would write so scathing a column as this one: What Goeth Before the Fall (available free at the WaPo site only a few more days). Comparing Foley to Elmer Gantry, Will says of the Republicans: "Their story, of late, has been that theirs is the lonely burden of defending all that is wholesome. But the problem with claiming to have cornered the market on virtue is that people will get snippy when they spot vice in your ranks. This is one awkward aspect of what is supposed to have been the happy fusion between, but which involves unresolved tensions between, two flavors of conservatism -- Western and Southern." He goes on to explain the source of these tensions in Western libertarianism and Southern piety. I like the conclusion to this piece:
After the 1936 election, in which President Franklin Roosevelt shellacked the Republican nominee in all but two states, a humorist wrote: "If the outcome of this election hasn't taught you Republicans not to meddle in politics, I don't know what will." If, after the Foley episode -- a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats' delectable sundae of Republican miseries -- the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats, they should go into another line of work.
{photo capton:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert at a news conference Monday after Mark Foley's resignation. By Lauren Victoria Burke -- Associated Press}

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"ah my beauty past compare"

At work, I listen to the classical music channel of Sweden's national radio on the web. At home it's WBJC on analog radio (through my PC sound card). WBJC is having one of their (blessedly rare) begging weekends so I put in a CD this Saturday morning: the CD which came with the book Renata Tebaldi: The Voice of an Angel,
by Carlamaria Casanova. It's excellent.

So what? Well its first cut is the Jewel Song from Gounod's Faust. I don't find a freely available copy of this performance on the internet, but you can find one by Gabriela Benackova on YouTube.

And.... and The Jewel Song immediately brings to mind Hergé's TinTin character Bianca Castafiore whom TinTin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock treat as a major pain in the ass. The jewel of La Scala, the Milanese Nightingale, her signature tune is the Jewel Song, whose first few words -- lofted at every remote opportunity -- drive TinTin and the others mad.

Says the infofax site:
The only major recurring female character in the Adventures of Tintin, the opera diva first appeared in the album King Ottokar's Sceptre. Her name is Italian for "chaste flower". Although apparently one of the leading opera singers of her generation, the only thing that Castafiore is ever heard to sing are a few lines of the Jewel Song, l'air des bijoux, from Faust, always at ear-splitting volume: "Ah my beauty past compare, these jewels bright I wear!". Unsurprisingly, opera was one of Hergé's pet hates. She is said to have been modeled on the real-life opera singer Maria Callas. She has a crush on Haddock, for whom she has a strong mothering instinct. She always pronounces his name incorrectly ("Capitaine Karbock"), and whenever she showers him with tokens of affection the results are disastrous. She later gets involved in rumours surrounding an affair with Haddock — much to the Captain's chagrin.

{image sources:,,, and}