Nineteen ideas and images from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry for December 6th, 1837

December 6th.–A fairy tale about chasing Echo to her hiding-place. Echo is the voice of a reflection in a mirror,

A house to be built over a natural spring of inflammable gas, and to be constantly illuminated therewith. What moral could be drawn from this? It is carburetted hydrogen gas, and is cooled from a soft shale or slate, which is sometimes bituminous, and contains more or less carbonate of lime. It appears in the vicinity of Lockport and Niagara Falls, and elsewhere in New York. I believe it indicates coal. At Fredonia, the whole village is lighted by it. Elsewhere, a farm-house was lighted by it, and no other fuel used in the coldest weather.

Gnomes, or other mischievous little fiends, to be represented as burrowing in the hollow teeth of some person who has subjected himself to their power. It should be a child’s story. This should be one of many modes of petty torment. They should be contrastedwith beneficent fairies, who minister to the pleasures of the good.

Some very famous jewel or other thing, much talked of all over the world. Some person to meet with it, and get possession of it in some unexpected manner, amid homely circumstances.

To poison a person or a party of persons with the sacramental wine.

A cloud in the shape of an old woman kneeling, with arms extended towards the moon.

On being transported to strange scenes, we feel as if all were unreal. This is but the perception of the true unreality of earthly things, made evident by the want of congruity between ourselves and them. By and by we become mutually adapted, and the perception is lost.

An old looking-glass. Somebody finds out the secret of making all the images that have been reflected in it pass back again across its surface.

Our Indian races having reared no monuments, like the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, when they have disappeared from the earth their history will appear a fable, and they misty phantoms.

A woman to sympathize with all emotions, but to have none of her own.

A portrait of a person in New England to be recognized as of the same person represented by a portrait in Old England. Having distinguished himself there, he had suddenly vanished, and had never been heardof till he was thus discovered to be identical with a distinguished man in New England.

Men of cold passions have quick eyes.

A virtuous but giddy girl to attempt to play a trick on a man. He sees what she is about, and contrives matters so that she throws herself completely into his power, and is ruined,–all in jest.

A letter, written a century or more ago, but which has never yet been unsealed.

A partially insane man to believe himself the Provincial Governor or other great official of Massachusetts. The scene might be the Province House.

A dreadful secret to be communicated to several people of various characters,–grave or gay, and they all to become insane, according to their characters, by the influence of the secret.

Stories to be told of a certain person’s appearance in public, of his having been seen in various situations, and of his making visits in private circles; but finally, on looking for this person, to come upon his old grave and mossy tombstone.

The influence of a peculiar mind, in close communion with another, to drive the latter to insanity.

To look at a beautiful girl, and picture all the lovers, in different situations, whose hearts are centred upon her.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s journal entry for December 6th, 1837. From Passages from the American Note-Books.

Demonic images from the Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere

L0076385 A compendium about demons and magic. MS 1766.

Water color images from Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere, which, despite that claim to 1057, was probably produced in the late 18th century. See the whole book at Wellcome Library. Via Idea Fixa. 

L0076362 Illustration of Beelzebub, MS 1766

Continue reading “Demonic images from the Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere”

Inside the Machine (Book acquired 6.25.2015)


My crappy iPhone pics aren’t doing justice to these images from Megan Prelinger’s Inside the Machine (glossy pages are hard to photograph). Book is out in August from W.W. Norton—their blurb:

A visual history of the electronic age captures the collision of technology and art—and our collective visions of the future.

A hidden history of the twentieth century’s brilliant innovations—as seen through art and images of electronics that fed the dreams of millions.

A rich historical account of electronic technology in the twentieth century, Inside the Machine journeys from the very origins of electronics, vacuum tubes, through the invention of cathode-ray tubes and transistors to the bold frontier of digital computing in the 1960s.

But, as cultural historian Megan Prelinger explores here, the history of electronics in the twentieth century is not only a history of scientific discoveries carried out in laboratories across America. It is also a story shaped by a generation of artists, designers, and creative thinkers who gave imaginative form to the most elusive matter of all: electrons and their revolutionary powers.

As inventors learned to channel the flow of electrons, starting revolutions in automation, bionics, and cybernetics, generations of commercial artists moved through the traditions of Futurism, Bauhaus, modernism, and conceptual art, finding ways to link art and technology as never before.

A visual tour of this dynamic era, Inside the Machine traces advances and practical revolutions in automation, bionics, computer language, and even cybernetics. Nestled alongside are surprising glimpses into the inner workings of corporations that shaped the modern world: AT&T, General Electric, Lockheed Martin.

While electronics may have indelibly changed our age, Inside the Machinereveals a little-known explosion of creativity in the history of electronics and the minds behind it.


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“New literary forms always produce new forms of life” (From Chekhov’s Note-Books)

* * * * *

In the servants’ quarters Roman, a more or less dissolute peasant, thinks it his duty to look after the morals of the women servants.

* * * * *

A large fat barmaid—a cross between a pig and white sturgeon.

* * * * *

At Malo-Bronnaya (a street in Moscow). A little girl who has never been in the country feels it and raves about it, speaks about jackdaws, crows and colts, imagining parks and birds on trees.

* * * * *

Two young officers in stays.

* * * * *

A certain captain taught his daughter the art of fortification.

* * * * *

New literary forms always produce new forms of life and that is why they are so revolting to the conservative human mind.

* * * * *

A neurasthenic undergraduate comes home to a lonely country-house, reads French monologues, and finds them stupid.

* * * * *

People love talking of their diseases, although they are the most uninteresting things in their lives.

* * * * *

An official, who wore the portrait of the Governor’s wife, lent money on interest; he secretly becomes rich. The late Governor’s wife, whose portrait he has worn for fourteen years, now lives in a suburb, a poor widow; her son gets into trouble and she needs 4,000 roubles. She goes to the official, and he listens to her with a bored look and says: “I can’t do anything for you, my lady.”

* * * * *

Women deprived of the company of men pine, men deprived of the company of women become stupid.

* * * * *

–From Anton Chekhov’s Note-Books.

Thomas Pynchon Portrait — James Jean

James Jean does Thomas Pynchon. (Via Hey Oscar Wilde!).

Mimiyo Tomozawa Painting

Mimiyo Tomozawa

Powers and Organs of the Mind

phren1 phren2

(From Spurzheim’s Phrenology)

The Monster — Odilon Redon

The Pennants of Passive Attitudes and Emotions (William H. Gass)

(From William Gass’s 1995 novel The Tunnel; The Quarterly Conversation will lead a Big Read of The Tunnel starting next week).

Trout’s Tomb — Kurt Vonnegut


“Advice on the Art of Writing Short Stories” — Roberto Bolaño

Originally published in World Literature Today. Images via Defining Myself Secondhand.

Thomas Pynchon: Man of Mystery

“Thomas Pynchon: Man of Mystery” — Comic by Kelly Shane & Woody Compton, part of their Is This Tomorrow? series.

“Thomas Pynchon” — James Jean

James Jean does Thomas Pynchon. (Via Hey Oscar Wilde!).

Even More Images from Codex Seraphinianus

More images from Luigi Serafini’s surreal cryptoencyclopedia, Codex Seraphinianus. Learn more by reading Justin Taylor’s essay from the May 2007 issue of The Believer.

Doomed He Was

Image of Poe by Edward McKnight Kauffer, via A Journey Round My Skull
Image of Poe by Edward McKnight Kauffer, via A Journey Round My Skull

So, instead of grading essays like I should’ve today, I reread D. H. Lawrence’s essay on Edgar Allan Poe, collected in the former’s incomparable Studies in Classic American Literature. Lawrence asserts that Poe is “absolutely concerned with the disintegration-processes of his own psyche,” and goes on to try to prove this over a close-reading of some of Poe’s most famous tales, including “Ligeia” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Lawrence concludes his essay a bit melodramatically, but it seems to suit Poe’s depraved dilemmas:

But Poe knew only love, love, love, intense vibrations and heightened consciousness. Drugs, women, self destruction, but anyhow the prismatic ecstasy of heightened consciousness and sense of love, of flow. The human soul in him was beside itself. But it was not lost. He told us plainly how it was, so that we should know.

He was an adventurer into vaults and cellars and horrible underground passages of the human soul. He sounded the horror and warning of his own doom.

Doomed he was. He died wanting more love, and love killed him. A ghastly disease, love. Poe telling us of his disease: trying even to make his disease fair and attractive. Even succeeding.

Actually, a University of Maryland Medical Center study finds that rabies likely caused Poe’s death, not love, as Lawrence suggests. Rabies. Not drugs or women–or love–rabies. How’s that for a “disintegration-process”?

Hemingway House


We spent a long July 4th weekend in beautiful Key West, celebrating freedom via endless barhopping and overeating. Somehow, between the Key lime margaritas, street beers, and moonlight reggaeton, we managed to stumble into Hemingway House (officially named The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum), the house where Hemingway lived for most of the 1930s, and the place where he wrote some of his best stuff. I had been to Hemingway house almost two decades ago, when I was about twelve or thirteen. I was obsessed with Hemingway then, so I took the tour. This time, however, it was too hot. My wife works for a museum, so we got in free, which also affects how one values/reviews a place of interest, so bear that in mind when I say that, unless you’re a literary nut, go ahead and skip Hemingway House and head to Kelly’s for a drink or six. Still, the house is beautiful, outfitted with plenty of artifacts related to Papa, including some books from his personal library that I photographed and included below. (I was the only nerd photographing the books; everyone seemed far more interested in the ancestors of Hemingway’s freakish cats).Here are the books (more after the jump):


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