Edifice Complex

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kinkaku-Snow-8-Cropped.jpg

On visiting the Gold Pavilion Temple in Kyoto, Douglas Adams was impressed at how well the 14th-century structure had weathered the passage of time. His Japanese guide told him that it hadn’t weathered well at all; in fact it had burned to the ground twice in the 20th century.

“So this isn’t the original building?” Adams asked.

“But yes, of course it is.”

“But it’s been burned down?”

“Yes.”

“Twice.”

“Many times.”

“And rebuilt.”

“Of course. It is an important and historic building.”

“With completely new materials.”

“But of course. It was burned down.”

“So how can it be the same building?”

“It is always the same building.”

“I had to admit to myself that this was in fact a perfectly rational point of view, it merely started from an unexpected premise,” Adams wrote. The essence of a building is its design, the intention of the builder. The materials may decay and be replaced, but these are only instantiations of a persistent idea. “I couldn’t feel entirely comfortable with this view, because it fought against my basic Western assumptions,” Adams wrote, “but I did see the point.”

From Last Chance to See. John Locke asked: If I keep patching holes in my sock until none of the original material remains, is it the same sock? And see Ship Shape.

The Conch Republic

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Conchrepublic.svg
Image: Wikimedia Commons

On April 23, 1982, the Florida keys seceded from the Union. Frustrated that a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint was obstructing the main artery to the mainland, Key West mayor Dennis Wardlow opted for a lighthearted public relations campaign: He proclaimed his “Conch Republic” a separate nation, declared war on the United States, surrendered one minute later, and applied for $1 billion in foreign aid.

Since then the republic has maintained an uneasy peace with its giant neighbor. On Sept. 20, 1995, when an Army reserve battalion forgot to notify Key West of local training exercises, Wardlow mobilized for war. He sent letters to Bill Clinton, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and secretary of state Warren Christopher, and his militia engaged La Dichosa Bakery to bake Cuban bread with which to pelt the convoy (“our historic weapon of choice for dealing with Federalist Forces”) and Key West Lager “to provide the beer.”

By 10:50 p.m. they had received a fax from the battalion’s leaders stating that they had “in no way meant to challenge or impugn the sovereignty of the Conch Republic.” An official surrender ceremony was held two days later.

Introspection

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Symmes_Hole.jpg

On April 10, 1818, John Cleves Symmes Jr. of Ohio issued the following challenge:

To All The World. — I declare the earth to be hollow and habitable within; containing a number of concentric spheres, one within the other, and that their poles are open twelve or sixteen degrees. I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the concave, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.

I ask one hundred brave companions, well equipped, to start from Siberia, in autumn, with reindeer and sledges, on the ice of the Frozen Sea; I engage we find a warm country and rich land, stocked with thrifty vegetables and animals, if not men, on reaching about sixty-nine miles northward of latitude 82; we will return in the succeeding spring.

Kentucky senator (and future vice president) Richard M. Johnson proposed that Congress fund two vessels for the expedition, but Congress voted this down. But we have an account of the voyage anyway: An anonymous hoaxer published Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery under Symmes’ name in 1820.

Notice

Any person in want of a DEAD PIG may find one, that will probably answer his purpose, in the middle of Broadway, between Broome and Spring Streets. Applicants need not be in any great haste, as it is expected that he will lie there several days; and if the warm weather should last, and the carriages will let him alone, he will grow — bigger and bigger.

New York Daily Advertiser, 1822

This Earth of Majesty

Letter to the Times, May 2, 1940:

Sir,

In view of the publicity you have accorded to Mrs Barrow’s letter, I hope that you will spare me space to say, as an advocate for the consumption of grass-mowings, that I have eaten them regularly for over three years, and off many lawns. The sample I am eating at present comes off a golf green on Mitcham Common. I have never suffered from urticaria or any of the symptoms Mrs Barrow mentions. Nor did any of the many of my horses to which I have fed grass-mowings, freshly cut and cleaned from stones, &c. For my own consumption I also wash them well.

Yours faithfully,

J.R.B. Branson

The Earthquake Rose

http://www.earthquakerose.com/

When a magnitude 6.8 earthquake shook Olympia, Wash., in 2001, shop owner Jason Ward discovered that a sand-tracing pendulum had recorded the vibrations in the image above.

Seismologists say that the “flower” at the center reflects the higher-frequency waves that arrived first; the outer, larger-amplitude oscillations record the lower-frequency waves that arrived later.

“You never think about an earthquake as being artistic — it’s violent and destructive,” Norman MacLeod, president of Gaelic Wolf Consulting in Port Townsend, told ABC News. “But in the middle of all that chaos, this fine, delicate artwork was created.”