An Empire’s Lamentation

wellington cortege

When the Duke of Wellington died in 1852, his funeral procession was watched by a crowd of 1.5 million people. To commemorate it, Henry Alken and George Augustus Sala painted a panorama fully 20 meters long, which was released the following year:

Wellington had certainly earned some distinction — his style was proclaimed in the London Gazette:

Arthur,
Duke and Marquess of Wellington,
Marquess Douro, Earl of Wellington,
Viscount Wellington and Baron Douro,
Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter,
Knight Grand Cross of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath,
One of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council, and
Field Marshal and Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty’s Forces.
Field Marshal of the Austrian Army,
Field Marshal of the Hanoverian Army,
Field Marshal of the Army of the Netherlands,
Marshal-General of the Portuguese Army,
Field Marshal of the Prussian Army,
Field Marshal of the Russian Army,
and
Captain-General of the Spanish Army.
Prince of Waterloo, of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo
and Grandee of Spain of the First Class.
Duke of Victoria, Marquess of Torres Vedras, and Count of Vimiera in Portugal.
Knight of the Most Illustrious Order of the Golden Fleece, and of the Military Orders
of St. Ferdinand and of St. Hermenigilde of Spain.
Knight Grand Cross of the Orders of the Black Eagle and of the Red Eagle of Prussia.
Knight Grand Cross of the Imperial Military Order of Maria Teresa of Austria.
Knight of the Imperial Orders of St. Andrew, St. Alexander Newski, and St. George of Russia.
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Portuguese Military Order of the Tower and Sword.
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal and Military Order of the Sword of Sweden.
Knight of the Order of St. Esprit of France.
Knight of the Order of the Elephant of Denmark.
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order.
Knight of the Order of St. Januarius and of the Military Order of St. Ferdinand and
of Merit of the Two Sicilies.
Knight or Collar of the Supreme Order of the Annunciation of Savoy.
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Military Order of Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria.
Knight of the Royal Order of the Rue Crown of Saxony,
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Military Merit of Wurtemberg.
Knight Grand Cross of the Military Order of William of the Netherlands.
Knight of the Order of the Golden Lion of Hesse Cassel,
and
Knight Grand Cross of the Orders of Fidelity and of the Lion of Baden.

(Thanks, James.)

Art and Science

http://www.microbialart.com/galleries/fleming/

Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of pencillin, grew “germ paintings” of living bacteria on blotting paper. He made this 4-inch portrait, titled “Guardsman,” in 1933.

“If a paper disc is placed on the surface of an agar plate, the nutrient material diffuses through the paper sufficiently to maintain the growth of many microorganisms implanted on the surface of the paper,” he wrote. “At any stage, growth can be stopped by the introduction of formalin. Finally the paper disc, with the culture on its surface, can be removed, dried, and suitably mounted.”

Here’s a gallery. “Even in Fleming’s time this technique failed to receive much attention or approval. Apparently he prepared a small exhibit of bacterial art for a royal visit to St Mary’s by Queen Mary. The Queen was ‘not amused and hurried past it’ even though it included a patriotic rendition of the Union Jack in bacteria.”

No Connection

In a garden in Ōtsuchi, in the Iwate prefecture on Japan’s east coast, stands an inoperative phone booth that’s nonetheless been used by more than 10,000 people since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed 15,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. The booth, known as the “Kaze no Denwa Box,” or Phone Booth of the Winds, was built by 69-year-old Itaru Sasaki so that local residents could communicate with loved ones who are dead or missing. Sasaki never connected the line, but callers still use the phone to speak to the departed, or write messages on a notepad, trusting that the wind will carry them to their intended recipients.

“In such a stricken environment, it might have been easy to perceive this disconnected phone booth as a whimsical art project incommensurate with the scale of loss experienced by the survivors for whom it was intended,” writes Ariana Kelly in Phone Booth (2015). “But quite the opposite has happened, and for the past several years there has been a steady stream of visitors to the booth, both from Ōtsuchi and other parts of Japan. Perhaps it provides a necessary terminus, a destination in a place marked by eradication. Perhaps one antidote to tragedy is useless beauty, or just uselessness.”

Quiet Time

neuhaus alarm clock

In 1979, artist Max Neuhaus proposed a silent alarm clock. Or, rather, a clock that awakens one with silence:

Instead of a bell which begins with a sudden clang and gradually dies away, this concept is precisely the opposite. The sound is introduced gradually; beginning inaudibly it grows slowly over a period of minutes and, at its height, suddenly disappears. The long subtle emergence of the sound causes it to go unnoticed. It becomes apparent only at the instant of its disappearance, creating a sense of silence.

The change would awaken you. It’s not even really silence that you’d hear — the normal background sounds would still be there. But “in this silent moment, for a few seconds after the sound has gone, a subtle transparent aural afterimage is superimposed on the everyday sounds of the environment, a spontaneous aural memory or reconstruction perhaps, shared by all who notice it, engendered by the sound’s disappearance.”

Unquote

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Krokodile.png

“We speak of a manly man, but not of a whaley whale. If you wanted to dissuade a man from drinking his tenth whisky, you would slap him on the back and say, ‘Be a man.’ No one who wished to dissuade a crocodile from eating his tenth explorer would slap it on the back and say, ‘Be a crocodile.'”

— G.K. Chesterton, The Religious Doubts of Democracy, 1903

Podcast Episode 138: Life in a Cupboard

patrick fowler

In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll tell two stories about people who spent years confined in miserably small spaces. North Carolina slave Harriet Jacobs spent seven years hiding in a narrow space under her grandmother’s roof, evading her abusive owner, and Irishman Patrick Fowler spent most of World War I hiding in the cabinet of a sympathetic family in German-occupied France.

We’ll also subdivide Scotland and puzzle over a ballerina’s silent reception.

See full show notes …

Ecommerce

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reflections_on_the_Thames,_Westminster_-_Grimshaw,_John_Atkinson.jpg

In 1857 The Leisure Hour tried to imagine life in London a century in the future, that is, in 1957. Many of the predictions seem sadly optimistic (for instance, the eradication of crime), but one in particular stands out:

I observed that from each of these district shops innumerable electric wires branched off in all directions, communicating with several houses in the district to which it belonged. Thus, no sooner did a house-keeper stand in need of any article than she could despatch the order instantaneously along the wire, and receive the goods by the very first railway carriage that happened to pass the store. Thus, she saved her time, and she lost no money, because all chaffering and cheapening, and that fencing between buyer and seller, which was once deemed a pleasure, had been long voted a disgraceful, demoralizing nuisance, and was done away with.

You can read the whole thing at the Public Domain Review.

Spy Kids

http://www.cryptomuseum.com/crypto/mehano/barbie/

Barbie typewriters, sold worldwide by Mattel, have an undocumented built-in cryptographic capability. Pressing SHIFT and LOCK in combination with a particular trio of keys will engage any of four monoalphabetic substitution ciphers — once the feature is engaged, a keyed message will be printed in a transposed alphabet. Pressing a different combination of keys will put the machine into “decoding mode,” where keying a transposed message will print the deciphered text. So the same machine can be used to code and decode a message.

Details are at the Crypto Museum. These things were marketed to 5-year-olds. What else don’t we know about?

(Thanks, David.)

And-cestry

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alphabet_with_ampersand.jpg

In the Middle Ages, when schoolchildren spelled a one-letter word, they would indicate this with the Latin phrase per se (“by itself”) — so students learning to read would say “D-O-G, dog” but “A per se, a,” meaning “A by itself, [the word] a.”

When the alphabet was printed, the symbol & was customarily added at the end, and the reader would say, “& per se, and.”

After many years of hasty slurring, this left us with the word ampersand.

(Thanks, David.)