An Empty Message

“The hardest of all adventures to speak of is music, because music has no meaning to speak of. If music could be translated into human speech it would no longer need to exist. Like love, music’s a mystery which, when solved, evaporates.” — Ned Rorem, Music From Inside Out, 1967

“Music has no subject beyond the combinations of notes we hear, for music speaks not only by means of sounds, it speaks nothing but sound.” — Eduard Hanslick

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.” — Victor Hugo

But music moves us, and we know not why;
We feel the tears, but cannot trace their source.
Is it the language of some other state,
Born of its memory? For what can wake
The soul’s strong instinct of another world,
Like music?

— Letitia Elizabeth Landon, The Golden Violet, 1827

Utsuro-Bune

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

Three different Japanese texts of the early 19th century refer to a “hollow ship” that arrived on a local beach in 1803. A white-skinned young woman emerged, but fishermen found that she couldn’t communicate in Japanese, so they returned her to the vessel, which drifted back to sea.

This seems to be a folktale, though it’s an oddly specific one — the texts give specific dates (Feb. 22 or March 24) and give the dimensions of the craft (3.3 meters high, 5.4 meters wide), which was shaped like a rice pot or incense burner fitted with small windows. Reportedly the woman carried a small box that no one was allowed to touch.

But the place names mentioned appear to be fictitious; most likely the story is merely an expression of the insularity of the Edo period. One thing the ship wasn’t is a UFO — it never left the water, but simply floated away.

“The Dyspeptic’s Suicide”

Mr. Beauclerk said [to Samuel Johnson:] Mr. ——–, who loved buttered muffins, but durst not eat them because they disagreed with his stomach, resolved to shoot himself; and then he eat three buttered muffins for breakfast, before shooting himself, knowing that he should not be troubled with indigestion; he had two charged pistols; one was found lying charged upon the table by him, after he had shot himself with the other.

— James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

Progress

The clock on Bolivia’s congressional building runs counterclockwise.

Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said the “clock of the south” had been adopted to affirm the country’s “southernness” and to encourage Bolivians to question norms and think creatively.

“Who says that the clock always has to turn one way?” he asked at a news conference in 2014. “Why do we always have to obey? Why can’t we be creative?”

Perhaps he’d been inspired by Venezuela, where in 2006 president Hugo Chávez raised a new national flag on which a white horse gallops left instead of right, “representing the return of Bolivar and his dream,” and the following year he put the nation’s clocks back half an hour “so that our bodies and above all our children take better advantage of sunlight and adapt the biological clock.”

Strange Encounter

https://books.google.com/books?id=bcTE3-aFOlwC

In June 1867 French astronomer Camille Flammarion was floating west from Paris in a balloon when he entered a region of dense cloud:

Suddenly, whilst we are thus suspended in the misty air, we hear an admirable concert of instrumental music, which seems to come from the cloud itself and from a distance of a few yards only from us. Our eyes endeavour to penetrate the depths of white, homogeneous, nebulous matter which surrounds us in every direction. We listen with no little astonishment to the sounds of the mysterious orchestra.

The cloud’s high humidity had concentrated the sound of a band playing in a town square more than a kilometer below. Five years earlier, during his first ascent over Wolverhampton in July 1862, James Glaisher had heard “a band of music” playing at an elevation of nearly 4 kilometers (13,000 feet).

(From Glaisher’s Travels in the Air, 1871.)

Wayward Pigeons

https://pxhere.com/en/photo/958529

In 1998, thousands of pigeons mysteriously went missing during two separate races in Virginia and Pennsylvania. More than 2,200 birds vanished, amounting to an 85 percent loss rate. The weather was calm, and it’s normal for a few birds to disappear, but the rate is usually closer to 5 percent.

It’s known that pigeons navigate by the sun and by sensing magnetic fields, but neither of those seems to be the culprit here. “Every year or so, you have one race like this where many disappear,” Cornell zoologist Charles Walcott told the Chicago Tribune. “But what is unusual is to lose so many birds from several races at the same time. What’s going on now is quite mysterious.”

Related: In 2010 a racing pigeon named Houdini disappeared during a 224-mile race in Britain and turned up five weeks later in Panama, 5,200 miles away.

“I was gobsmacked. I didn’t even know where Panama was,” owner Darren Cubberley told the Daily Mirror. “I’ve no idea how Houdini got there — I can only assume she hitched a lift on a ship across the Atlantic.”

The bird, reportedly in “perfect shape,” would have been too expensive to return, so she remained with Gustavo Ortiz, on whose roof she’d landed. At last report she was learning Spanish.

Full Circle

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:North_Ray_Crater_AS16-116-18597-18603.jpg

Before they departed on Apollo 16 in April 1972, lunar module pilot Charles Duke told commander John Young about an eerie dream he’d had. The two of them were driving the lunar rover toward the North Ray crater when they crossed a ridge and discovered a set of tire tracks. They followed them, and after an hour they came upon another lunar rover that had been standing on the moon’s surface for thousands of years. In it were two dead astronauts who looked like Duke and Young.

In folklore seeing one’s double can be an omen of imminent death, but Duke didn’t take it that way. “I felt kind of comfortable,” he said later. “I took parts from this other vehicle, to show to the people down at Houston.”

But the impression remained with him as the mission departed for the moon. “The dream was so vivid that when we were landing I looked out of the window to the north to see if there were any tracks on the surface of the moon,” he said. “The landscape was very similar to what I [had] seen in my dream.”

On April 23, he found himself driving the rover with Young toward the North Ray crater and couldn’t resist looking for a second set of tracks. There was none, of course, but while he was distracted the rover began to slide backward down the slope and he had to fight to keep it from overturning. When they came to a stop the rover’s tracks extended ahead of them up the slope.

Young said, “Charlie, you said you were going to see some other tracks on the Moon.”

Thinking Big

This is fantastic — in 2017, 56 enthusiasts built an O-gauge model railway 71 miles long, connecting Fort William and the City of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. At a scale of 46:1, that’s half the length of the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Only one journey was made on the completed railway. The locomotive Silver Lady departed Corpach Double Lock on June 23, 2017, and arrived, on time, at Inverness Castle on July 1.

Volunteer team leader Lawrence Robbins told the Daily Record, “Just because it’s bonkers doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.”

Misc

https://pixabay.com/en/diamonds-eight-deck-playing-cards-884176/

  • The negative space in the eight of diamonds forms an 8.
  • William Brewster, leader of the Plymouth Colony, named his children Jonathan, Patience, Fear, Love, and Wrestling.
  • Wilfred Owen’s mother received the news of his death on Armistice Day.
  • SCHOOLMASTER = SMOTE SCHOLAR
  • “I never had any philosophic instruction, the first lecture on psychology I ever heard being the first I ever gave.” — William James

Tempting Fate

What remained of the Tenth [Massachusetts] departed from City Point, on the James River, on June 21 [1864], for the return to Springfield and Northampton. But before leaving Virginia, on June 20, Sgt. Maj. George F. Polley, who was originally in Brewster’s company and had just reenlisted, carved his name and the inscription ‘Killed June –, 1864’ on a piece of board torn from a cracker box. After participating in the ‘goodbye’ rituals with his comrades and sharing an awkward amusement with them about his carving, Polley was struck flush by an artillery shell and killed. In his diary, brigade member Elisha Hunt Rhodes recorded this incident in his matter-of-fact style. Polley ‘showed me a board on which he had carved his name, date of birth and had left a place for the date of his death,’ reported Rhodes. ‘I asked him if he expected to be killed and he said no, and that he had made his head board only for fun. To day he was killed by a shell from a Rebel Battery.’ The last act of the Tenth before boarding the mailboat for Washington, D.C., was to bury Polley.

— David W. Blight, When This Cruel War Is Over, 2009