~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke


Prokudin-Gorskii ~ Thursday, December 09, 2004

I first heard about him a few years ago, but we were at a dinner last night and the subject of photography came up--so, I just had to jump in with a non-sequitur about him.

Prokudin-Gorskii lived in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and he developed a technique whereby he could create full, equisitely coloured, vibrant photographs in the early twentieth century (i.e. before 1910).

The Tsar was so impressed that he commissioned a pictoral dictionary to be compiled, and financed the expedition.

The pictures are vibrant and fascinating, depicting a period of time that I always think of as being drab and dour, because usually the images we see of them are black and white--except here, they are as vivid as if they had been taken yesterday. It is somehow magical--or like uncovering a treasure of infinite value, to discover these, and to be able to see with them, a world without telephone wires and commuter airlines--in other words, a world far vaster and with far more mysteries than the one in which we live today.


::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 1:52 PM::::



Mindspace ~ Tuesday, December 07, 2004

At my voice lesson today, we did a fascinating exercise to get a sense of my mental image of the bone architecture, with the ultimate idea of being able to visualise where to sing, where to resonate and so on. Interesting stuff--it makes me wonder where our imaginations reside.

With my eyes closed, it was just blankness I saw, and yet, I could also see all that she described, but it wasn't anything as simple as it being "before my eyes". It was somewhere, it was visual, and yet, it was a different kind of seeing. It's just funny because I use that imagination to visualise so much, every day, and yet it's rare that I'm brought up short against the question of where that vision (and any additional sensory evocations) resides.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 4:53 PM::::



Homestar Runner ~ Monday, December 06, 2004

A busy day today--but never too busy for www.homestarrunner.com!

Time to go.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 10:51 AM::::



Lost Cities of the Maya ~ Saturday, December 04, 2004

I was looking over our photos of our visit to Chacchoben yesterday and thinking about the whole notion of the lost cities.

A bit of background: during our "winter getaway" holiday last year, we visited a newly-opened Maya ruin called Chacchoben (which means something like "red corn" or somesuch--and is the name the archaeologists gave the place, not necessarily the name the Maya used). It was all but deserted, unlike what we've heard of other ruins in Mexico, and so we had the rare priveledge of being able to imagine what it might have been like for the explorers, discovering this sleeping city, buried under the green layers of humid jungle and posterity.

It was also possible to try to imagine, during some rare moments, what it might have been like for the Maya people themselves, living in a city that was admittedly built during the decline of the Maya civilization. Did they know they were in decline? Did they look out over these magnificent plinths and pyramids of theirs, and see the significance of the encroaching jungle, dense with entropy?

This absolutely fascinated me, as the reverent visitor, years after all who built or thought of building or even remembered the city when it was inhabited, were gone. I wondered how they would feel about this attitude, on the part of someone who comes as a modern product of the same European culture and sensibilty, which, in its more primitive and intolerant form (it's all right to call the Conquistadores primitive and intolerant, isn't it?) destroyed large swatches of its peoples, its declining culture, its archives.

What would it be like, to imagine that these records, intended for one's own descendants, are instead being perused by the very conquerors and enemies that you currently fear and perhaps even hate? That this culture of conquerors, whom you likely think of as barbarians, will someday evolve into people who respect and admire the achievements of your civilization?

It might be like us imagining that Islamic extremists (note emphasis on extremists, here) eventually prevail over our Western culture. They establish an oppressive regime, but over the generations, the culture evolves and relaxes and suddenly yearns to learn more about the peoples and the cultures their ancestors decimated. And when they do, they discover that we had some good things going for us. Some wisdom, some insights, just barely glimpsed in the tiny fragments of literature that survived the Gileadean Empire that preceded it. (Gilead is the name of the extremist religious state that is established in _The Handmaid's Tale_). That's sort of what has happened with the Maya, I think. Perhaps.

I heard the story of one priest who befriended a Maya archivist in the time of the Conquistadores. He attempted to transcribe some of the Maya ideograms, wrongly assuming that they were colloquially-based (such that all his notes were ultimately useless). And, when the archivist showed him all the sacred texts and family histories that he had been charged with guarding and keeping for generations to come, the priest took them all and burned them. I think there were close to fifty books there. And he burned them, because he was convinced they contained religious heresy. The number of Maya texts that we know of, which survive to this day: three, I believe. In fragments. The loss makes me want to weep--even as it tightens my chest with fury and gets my blood hot enough to boil. What an utter, complete tragedy. The things we might have learned from those books. The aspects of the culture that might have been preserved. The glyphs that might have been deciphered.

How devastating, for the archivist, to find that his trust had been so violated by the priest, and that in turn, the trust of his ancestors and his descendents had been unwittingly violated in him--he had failed them, and failed his duty. How utterly tragic.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 11:47 AM::::



Empire Builders--Alexander and Cleopatra ~ Friday, December 03, 2004

I bought a box set last year called something like _Women in History_. Turns out all the books in the set are reprints of older books, published in the '70's or far earlier.

I read the book on Lucretia Borgia and discovered that at least according to the particular historian who wrote the book, she wasn't really all that interesting. Sadly, I don't think that was the historian's intentional message, but that's how it came over. Lucretia was kind of boring, but she had a sinister family. Because of that, by association, her name has become infamous. Her family, on the other hand, was fascinating--particularly her horrifying, ruthless brothers. More on that later, perhaps.

For now--the subject of another book in the box set: Cleopatra IX. Yes, she was the ninth (I think--something like that, anyway) in a line of Cleopatras, but she's the famous one. She had at least one other sister also named Cleopatra. And two brothers named Ptolemy. This seems a strange idea to us, but historically, everyone seems to have been doing it. There was a whole rash of Mathildas in the history of the British (and European, through marriage) monarchy. Something to do with the association of greatness.

So, Cleopatra--the famous one. A fascinating woman. The author of the book, Michael Grant (I think), does a very nice job of separating his speculation from what historical fact might persist about her (as well as pointing out the reliability of such historical "facts" as remain). The information on her is astonishingly fragmentary, considering how famed she happens to be. But, what does survive points at an utterly brilliant and ruthless woman who strove to rebuild the empire of her ancestor, Ptolemy I, one of the generals in Alexander the Great's army. She did that, and more, gambling everything in the hopes of restoring her family to power. She gambled all, and lost all.

Then, last night, I was reading a somewhat slim volume, rather optimistically entitled something like _Peoples and Empires: Europeans and the Rest of the World, from Antiquity to the Present_.

But, alas, all my profound observations were lost, rather in the tradition of Coleridge and Kubla Khan, except that instead of that door-to-door encyclopedia salesman or whoever it was interrupting him, I had an Internet Explorer crash that lost all my unsaved data and frankly, I'm no longer in the mood to talk about Alexander and other Empire Builders. Been there, done that. Ready to move on, for now at least.

In a nutshell: something about risking much, winning much, losing much. That empire builder in China, who unified all the kingdoms under him--but the unification died with him. Metaphor of star-->supernova--> self-obliteration of black hole. Oh, and hallo Napoleon. Nice of you to join the party. How is Elba at this time of year, anyway?

Progress of my literal rewrite of the fantasy novel: almost 16,000 words since last Thursday. Time to get back to it. Other goal for the day: do a workout.


::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 12:25 PM::::


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Anduril Elessar
Susan Deefholts

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