Sunday, 24 April 2022

never look a gift horse in the mouth

Though this kind of exact date for something semi-legendary, laden with cultural baggage and millennia hence is notoriously hard to pin down, the attestation by among others Eratosthenes, polymath and librarian of Alexandria who calculated the circumference and axial tilt of Earth to a remarkable degree of accuracy (thanks in part to his access to extensive geological data at the library), traditionally places the Fall of Troy, the end of the decade-long siege of the impenetrable city by the Achaean armies when they were let into the gates, hiding inside a wooden horse, a ruse thought up by Odysseus—a creature sacred to the Trojans, on this day in 1183 BCE. Left on the beach as an offering for their return home, the Greeks had apparently decamped. Many were suspicious, including Cassandra and Laocoรถn—with of course no one listening to the former and the latter being devoured by a sea serpent along with his sons sent by Athena to keep the priest’s mouth shut but they ultimately decided to keep the horse and celebrated the end of their long blockade with an evening of drunken revelry. Most of the population was massacred in their sleep as the Greeks sacked the city—save for Aeneas who went on to found Rome in some traditions, with most of the Greeks also denied a safe homecoming by the gods for their atrocious behaviour as victors and for their desecration of temples and holy sites and were doomed to wrack and ruin.

Sunday, 20 March 2022

oral traditions

First championed by networks of storytellers in Sweden and Australia in the early nineties before being organised as a global observance in 2004 and held on or near the March equinox World Storytelling Day is a convention of sorts for audience and authors to connect, inspire and synthesise diverse folklore and myth (see previously here, here and here). Acknowledging the craft as a form of art and our own penchant for and appear to narrative, each annual gathering has had themes, like 2018’s Wise Fools, 2020’s Voyages and for 2022, Lost and Found. See if you can come up with a tall tale to share today.

Friday, 4 February 2022

traho fatis

The Latin motto—drawn by fate—echoes through this intriguing Renaissance tarot deck called Sola Busca, limned with an anachronistic marshalling of ancient heroes, medieval bestiaries and then contemporary weapons and armour. Housed presently in a museum in Milan and the earliest known deck to illustrate the complete suites of the major and minor arcana—probably engraved in Ferrara in 1491 and later hand-coloured in Venice—the allegory of iconography informs later iterations, including the familiar Smith-Waite design.  Nebuchadnezzar II, Gaius Marius, the uncle of Julius Caesar and several members of the Greek and Roman panthea.  Peruse the entire deck and learn more about the provenance at Public Domain Review at the link above.

Saturday, 29 January 2022

idomeneo

Considered one of the greatest operatic works of all time, the Italian language dramma per musica based on a 1705 stage play by French tragedian Prosper Jolyot de Crรฉbillon about the eponymous King of Crete by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had its premiere as the opener for court carnival season in Mรผnchen on this day in 1781. The piece in three acts with ballet interludes tells the story of the homecoming of the commander-in-chief who led the Cretan navy into the Trojan War, comrade of Ajax and rebuffed suitor of Helen, Idomeneus (แผธฮดฮฟฮผฮตฮฝฮตฯฯ‚—like The Odyssey)—grateful for peaceable relations again after decades of fighting, exercises clemency over prisoners of war brought from Troy, including Priam’s daughter Princess Ilia, though Argonaut Princess Electra is not happy about the potential competition to marry into the dynasty. In contravention to an earlier pledge that would have the king sacrifice his son to the sea on condition of a safe return, Neptune relents and spares the life of the king’s son Prince Idamante, on the promise that he relinquishes his throne to the younger generation, with the new king taking the Trojan princess as his queen. All are happy except Electra—her later parricidical frenzy attributed to this early rejection.

Monday, 24 January 2022

iwows

Via Slashdot, astronomers are forwarding the conjecture that like the other Saturnine satellites Titan and Enceladus, the mysterious and icy Mimas—heretofore most well known for being an actual moon despite its resemblance to the Death Star (formally ♄ I and named after the Giant, at the suggestion of William Hershel's son John like the others in this complex system after the Giant born of the blood of castrated Uranus and killed by Hephaestus during the Gigantomachy) may possibly harbour a vast liquid ocean several kilometres beneath its frozen crust. Going by the above initialism “interior water ocean worlds.” More at the links above.

Sunday, 2 January 2022

7x7

2020—too…: the moment it hits you 

the colours of motion: spectral analysis of contemporary film classics  

the timekeepers of eternity: a printed, pagination interpretation of Steven King’s novella The Langoliers  

forefather time: on the trial of the masqueraded, marauding Jukace that herald the New Year for one Polish city  

visual vernacular: Jayme Odgers—one of the montage artists behind California’s New Wave aesthetic, creates a legacy repository of his works 

ham and banana hollandaise: a cursed collection of dishes from McCall’s Great American Recipe Card Collection 

those we’ve lost: a more comprehensive compilation of celebrity obituaries from the past year from Bob Canada’s Blogworld

Friday, 17 December 2021

creepy crawly

Whilst the moniker itself is somewhat of an exaggeration in most cases, the rediscovered species and newly classified species, lured to bait in deep boreholes in a mine in western Australia, Eumillipes persephone, with over thirteen-hundred feet, truly lives up to the distinction of being the leggiest creature yet found. Named after the ill-fated queen of the Underworld for having been caught over sixty-meters under the surface, these arthropods are not only distinguished from less endowed cousins, the centipedes, by leg count with later also tending to be flatter and hunters with a venomous bite and the former scavengers and attracted to decomposing plant matter. Hatchlings emerge with just two segments and continually add more throughout their lifetimes.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

8x8

an den mond “genuss, lieber mond”: a completist sorts and ranks every composition of Franz Schubert—via the morning news 

chaotic good: mapping the mythological creatures of the Baltic—via ibฤซdem 

the two-thousand year-old man: more appreciation and acclaim for Mel Brooks 

birds aren’t real: a satirical Gen-Z misinformation campaign (see Poe’s Law) turned merchandising opportunity  

location scout: an assortment of movie maps 

parallel path: rubbish corporatespeak that does not avail itself to the level of jargon and technical terms  

combinatorics: base rate fallacies and why false narratives are easy to frame for the ill-numerate  

sexting: “u ๐Ÿ†™” in the style of several male authors

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

il bronzino

Passing away on this day in Florence, where he had spent his entire life, in 1572 (*1503), Agnolo di Cosimo, better known by his sobriquet for his dark complexion and red hair, was from his late thirties on engaged as a court painter for the grand ducal family of Tuscany, the Medicis—specifically for Cosimo I and Eleonora, which the Mannerist-trained painter portrayed here as Orpheus, musical virtuoso, around 1538.
The style curried disfavour from the general art world (see previously) from the late-Romantic to early Modern eras, but the disciplined poses and idealised renderings have seen somewhat of a resurgence recently.
Such impressions of poise and unchanging elegance made a lasting influence on aristocratic portraiture though not many others employed heroic nudity for public figures, patrons or otherwise. Many of his commissions were also allegories of classical mythology and biblical passages, including his 1533 depiction of the popular subject of Saint Sebastian—see previously.

Friday, 12 November 2021

monstropolis

Courtesy of Laughing Squid, we are directed towards Pixar Studio’s celebration of the twentieth anniversary of Monsters, Inc. with a four-minute tribute in the form of an old-timey animated short, filmed in scare-o-scope and complete with intertitles and rag-time accompaniment (original music by Randy Newman), leading to a rather heartwarming conclusion.

Sunday, 31 October 2021

dia do saci

 Designated by an NGO calling themselves amigos of this trickster character of Brazilian folklore to coincide with Halloween as a way to counter American cultural hegemony, the holiday, even where backed with state-support, only enjoys limited recognition and celebration—despite familiarity and popularity of its mascot.

The monopod figure with an enchanted cap and always smoking a pipe, mostly active at night, can be dangerous and malicious—though most pranks are merely annoying—but will grant the wishes of those who trap him or free him, liable to caught in a bottle while disappearing and reappearing in the midst of a whirlwind. Reportedly Saci’s magic cap, according to those who’ve tried to steal it, has an indelibly foul smell and those who’ve handled it can never wash the stench away.  Saci can be propitiated with offerings of a libation of cachaรงa and a measure of tobacco for his pipe.

Saturday, 30 October 2021

nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

A prolific and popular salon painter in his own time—though figural portraits of classical subjects fell out of fashion until a revival in the 1980s, William-Adolphe Bourguereau of La Rochelle born this day in 1825 (†1905) counts as his most famous work in his 1879 La Naissance de VรฉnusThis painting does not actually depict the birth of the goddess by her transported to Cyprus as a fully mature figure in a sea shell—first gained attention and notoriety after winning the 1850 grand prize in the Prix de Rome, submitting two entries for that year’s competition, triumphant with a rather pedestrian depiction of the rescue of Zenobia, half-drowned, by a group of shepherds. The more evocative alternate submission was the pictured Dante and his guide Virgil (where have you brought me?) in an encounter from Canto XXX of the Divine Comedy in the Circle of the Imposters (Falsifiers—perjurers, counterfeiters, etc.) with an alchemist called Capocchio forever condemned to be gnashed by a Florentine knight named Gianni Schicchi de’ Cavalcanti who forged the will of a wealthy merchant to leave a horse for him, whose punishment seems a little extreme. Aside from being immortalised in the epic and this painting, Giacomo Puccini produced an eponymous light-hearted opera in 1918.

Sunday, 24 October 2021

trog

Premiering in theatres on this day in 1970, this Freddie Francis (cinematographer for such films as The Elephant Man, Sons and Lovers, Son of Dracula, The Deadly Bees, Glory, The Executioner’s Song, Dune, Cape Fear), low-budget science fiction horror vehicle stars Joan Crawford (in her last role) as a renowned anthropologist who learns that a solitary troglodyte—Ice Age caveman—is dwelling in some remote caverns of the English countryside, whom to the distress of the locals tries to lure him out in order to study and perhaps civilise this missing link. For all its camp and status as a transgressive cult movie, it is surprisingly raw and touching.

Monday, 13 September 2021

your daily demon: marchosias

Governing from today through 17 September, our thirty-fifth spirit is infernal grand marquis presents in the likeness of a she-wolf with the wings of a griffon and the tail of a serpent. A good ally to a conjurer and willing to aid in any fight, Marchosias formerly belonged to the angelic rank of Dominions with control of thirty legion and hopes in vain to be restored to Heaven and the Seventh Throne after twelve hundred years. Marchosias is opposed by the guardian angel Kaveqiah.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

♄ viii

Discovered by Italian astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini in 1671 and later dubbed after the titan Iapetus after the naming convention established by William Herschel—with the antiquated adjectival form of Japetian that points to the conflation of the deity with Japheth, brother of Moses—and explored more thoroughly during the 2007 mission named after its discoverer, the satellite of Saturn first loomed large in human imagination when on this day in 1981 the Voyager 2 probe relayed the featured image back to Earth. The prominent equatorial ridge, named the Voyager Mountains after the photograph are among the highest in the known Solar System, and ring the object almost perfectly, giving rise to the theory that the feature is a reabsorbed ring and the probable but yet unseen occurrence of sub-satellites.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

saulฤ—

The solar deity in the Lithuanian pantheon, the goddess’ name is also the common name for the sun and the celestial bodies, including the Earth (ลฝemฤ—) are a familial constellation of the seven daughters of her consort the Moon, Mฤ—nulis.The other offspring reflect the planets known to Antiquity with Venus represented twice as the Morning Star, Auลกrinฤ—, and Vakarinฤ——the Evening Star—that prepared her mother for bed. The asterism Ursa Major was as Grigo Ratai interpreted as a chariot for Saulฤ— procession across the celestial sphere. The Houses of the Zodiac are regarded as liberators, having rescued the Sun from captivity in a high tower by an evil and powerful king seeking to subvert the land. The representative idol is near contemporary reproduction based off ancient totems.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

mozaika

It’s Nice That directs our attention to a fantastic archive curating the work of twenty-seven MidCentury Lithuanian illustrators who contributed to literary works aimed for sophisticated children in the form of Baltic fairy and folktales. The pictured work is from Albina Makลซnaitฤ— (*1926 - †2001) and betrays something of the subject’s inner-monologue, rich in detail, and later represented Lithuania in the 1960s in the Venice Biennale with her modernist, progressive art. See a whole gallery of works at the link above with more about the artists and authors at the links above.

your daily demon: forneus

Presenting as a dread sea monster and governing from today through 22 August, our thirtieth spirit is an infernal marquis whose office it is to endear individuals to friend and foe alike and impart skills in the rhetorical arts. Countered by the Shem HaMephorash guardian angel Omael, Forneus (from the Latin fornus for oven, crucible and can take many forms) rules over twenty-nine legion.

Friday, 13 August 2021

your daily demon: astaroth

Our twenty-ninth spirit is an infernal grand duke ruling from today through 17 August is part of the unholy trinity along with Beelzebub and Lucifer and likely derives his identity from the goddess Astarte, consort of Ishtar. Presenting as a fallen angel and commanding forty legions, Astaroth chiefly lures individuals to do wrong through laziness, self-doubt and rationisation but can be compelled to impart skill in mathematics and handicrafts as well as the power of invisibility. Treasurer of the Underworld, Astaroth is countered by the guardian angel Reyiyel as well as appeals to Bartholomew the Apostle who can repel the archdemon’s vices.

Monday, 2 August 2021

6x6

roll for perception: the official video for the 1987 Rick Astley hit (previously) surpasses one billion views   

until proven safe: EURIDICE, the eponym from the mythological Eurydice who Orpheus failed to retrieve from the Underworld, is the acronym for European Underground Research Infrastructure for the Disposal of Nuclear Waste in a Clay Environment  

a clokey production: a bot scours Gumbasia for random screen-grabs

pelagic waters: exploring the oceans’ midnight zone beyond the reach of the sun’s rays

portrait of a teenage alcoholic: a 1975 after school special starring The Exorcist’s Linda Blair and Star Wars’ Mark Hamill  

an eternal golden braid: some crib-notes and a course on the 1987 classic Gรถdel, Escher, Bach