Monday, September 29, 2014

Seine view

If the weather is just right, and I take the time to walk home across the entire city, many visual delights are available. 
... and if framed correctly, the visual delights can look serene and peaceful. Notice that I cropped out: tourists, cars, buses, trains, the police, vagrants, and garbage; plus the photographic medium innately removes all sound and atmospheric pollution.

You're really getting the best of this shot.

This post's theme word is apophoret, "a gift given on New Year's Eve." This retroblog averages to be an approximately-scheduled apophoret.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Fire Monument

Yet another real-life experience which is heavily tinged by Stephenson's words.
London very quickly became a smouldering membrane, a reeking tarpaulin flung over the hill and not smoothed out. The only features of consequence were the Fire Monument, the Bridge, the Tower, and St. Paul’s. The Bridge, as always, seemed like a Bad Idea, a city on stilts, and a very old, slumping, inflammable Tudor city at that. Not far from its northern end was the Fire Monument, of which Daniel was now getting his first clear view. It was an immense solitary column put up by Hooke but universally attributed to Wren. During Daniel’s recent movements about London he had been startled, from time to time, to spy the lantern at its top peering down at him from over the top of a building—just as he had often felt, when he was a younger man, that the living Hooke was watching him through a microscope. (The System of the World)
Here is how thoroughly The Baroque Cycle has permeated my brain: when walking across London Bridge, I thought, "hey, the Fire Monument must be nearby! let's find it!" And then I located it by using St. Paul's and the Tower, based entirely on the above quote. If Stephenson had included a fictionalized London in his works, I would have wandered around, looking for unicorns and rainbows in the real world. Compelling writing induces credibility.

This post's theme word is quire, "a quantity of 24 or 25 sheets of paper; one twentieth of a ream." May I inquire how many quires your reading notes required?

The blue Eye

The river is blue. The Eye is blue.
The color-highlighting feature of my camera is set to "blue." Reflections and lights are very pretty in this photo, which only barely captures the visual experience in person. Sensing these photons bouncing off those things, yes, but also the wind blowing on my face, the war memorial at my back, the tiredness at the end of a day of sightseeing, food satiation, and of course the balance of assorted hormones and neurotransmitters.

You know, normal life experience things. Maybe some future photographic technique (waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond measly 3D) will be able to duplicate these experiences.

This post's theme word is benthic, "of or relating to the bottom of a sea or lake." They Eye's strange, eerie light draws uncanny (Lovecraftian) energy from the benthic depths via the Thames.

Architectural juxtaposition

This juxtaposition of shiny metal curves with squat stone fortress... it tickles my fancy.
Future novels set in "historical" (present day) London will have to romanticize this weird combination of architectural approaches.

On the one hand, the stone fortress has stood for longer and against a wider variety of situations, weather, and hordes. On the other hand, I imagine that the Dread Lord of the Wobbly Glass Superstructure has some pretty puissant powers (perhaps blasting lightning bolts from the roof?).

This post's theme word is procumbent, "lying face down; prone; prostrate." or "of a plant: growing along the ground without putting new roots." The Tower of London looks procumbent in the highrise-dotted skyline of the city.

Tower of London Poppies

The Tower of London has an enormous art installation in remembrance of World War I. It is dramatic and impresses on me the image of a torrent of blood overflowing the bridge to fill the moat.
The site of so many deaths, hosting this grim display, forces contemplation. And, of course, inappropriately-smiling selfies. (I spared you.)

This post's theme word is dun, "to make persistent demands for payment, especially for a debt" (transitive verb), or "someone who duns" (noun), or "a demand for payment" (noun) or "a dull, grayish, brown color" (noun), or "a horse in dun color" (noun), or of course "of dun color" (adjective). The dun weather dimmed the demeanor of the dun dun as he rode a dun to deliver a dun.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A London evening

The sunset over London is purple tonight.
What keeps running through my mind is lines from Stephenson's The Baroque Cycle, in which he describes London many times, at length, and with his usual authorial flair.
It was impossible for so much uncovered dirt to exist in a city like London without becoming a breeding-ground for Crime or Commerce, and Daniel spied instances of both as soon as he got out of Wren’s carriage. (The System of the World)
Christopher Wren (and many other actual historical persons) appear throughout the trilogy; here's another quote on Wren and London:

Wren had put up so many churches so quickly that he’d not had time to plant steeples on them. They all looked splendid on the inside. But steeples were essential to his vision of how London ought to look from the outside, and so now, in semi-retirement, he was going round to his old projects and banging out majestic yet tasteful steeples one after the other. (The System of the World)
These books have reinforced a certain attitude and set of historical facts (or authorial imaginings, now gelled in my brain conflated with historical facts) about Europe. So much action takes place in London, though, that the experience of walking through the city brought back all these reading-memories, and wry jokes, and ridiculous costumes, and hapless alchemical experiments. Having read (and re-read several times) The Baroque Cycle enhanced my actual visit to sites of the books' scenes in a multimedia-flavored sort of way. I experienced more than I would usually; emotions were invoked.
A view of London bridge (about which I could find no pithy quotes).
There is a sickness of the mind that comes over those who bide too long in London, which causes otherwise rational men to put forced and absurd meanings on events that are accidental. (The System of the World)
I tried to avoid this "sickness of mind" by lingering in London only a few days at a time.

This post's theme word is nodus, "a complicated situation or problem." The novels' plots form an insidious nodus, much like the worldwide history they visit, excerpt, and creatively restructure.

An example of the verbose, winkingly snide, and lengthy descriptions which fill the Daniel Waterhouse sections of the novels:
For the London in which he had grown up had been a congeries of estates, parks, and compounds, thrown up over centuries by builders who shared a common dream of what a bit of English landscape ought to look like: it should be a generous expanse of open ground with a house planted in it. Or, in a pinch, a house and wall built around the perimeter of a not-so-generous patch of ground. At any rate, there had been, in Daniel’s London, views of sky and of water, and little parks and farmlets scattered everywhere, not by royal decree but by some sort of mute, subliminal consensus. In particular, the stretch of riverbank Daniel could see from this garret had been a chain of estates, great houses, palaces, courts, temples, and churches put up by whatever powerful knights or monks had got there first and defended them longest. During Daniel’s lifetime, every one of these, with the exceptions of the Temple (directly across from the outlet of Crane Court) and Somerset House (far off to his right, towards where Whitehall Palace had stood, before it had burned down), had been demolished. Some had been fuel for the Fire and others had fallen victim to the hardly less destructive energies of Real Estate Developers. Which was to say that with the exception of the large open green of the Temple, every inch of that ground now seemed to be covered by Street or Building. (The System of the World)

Friday, September 12, 2014


Lattices and lines, lattices and lines. It's all about the intersecting planes.

This post's theme word is ruck, "a crease or wrinkle." The Louvre's absence of rucks would come in handy during a particularly cold game of I-spy-with-my-little-eye in December... hint: starts with 'L', located by a physicist, included in the title of this post. You have 60 minutes to guess while fending off frostbite!