Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Technical Appendix for June, 1945: Printing Time

In 1681, a young gentleman of Bologna, Luigi Fernando, Count Marsigli (Imperial Free Counts are a dime a dozen in northern Italy) secured a place in the suite of the Venetian ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Or, as you were allowed to say without a trace of irony back in the day, the Sublime Porte. The appointment did not last very long, for reasons having more to do with high politics than anything Marsigli did. (Given his biography, he probably did a lot of cruising, but he didn't get into trouble over his private life until he was, like, totally old and gross, so who cares?) In the course of looking for his next job, Marsigli happened to drop a remarkable manuscript on the desk of the then-Emperor (His Sacred Imperial Majesty Caesar, by the Grace of God, Elect Roman Emperor, King of the Germans, Archduke of Austria, etc, etc), Leopold I. It was the Stato Militare dell'Impero Ottomano, and although not the up-to-date, ripped-from-the-archives report on the Ottoman army that it purported to be, it was some first class espionage, and got Marsigli that job, and the rest was history. Weird, eccentric, overwrought history, but history. 

But that's not what's important right now, because I'm talking about the report, which became a book: a profusely illustrated, magnificent volume, photostatically reproduced in the mid-70s as much for its beauty as the historical value of its contents. On the page reproduced above, text and graphics are combined by direct engraving on the copperplate by a master artisan, probably Dutch, in 1730. The reproduction is by the magic of Xerox, as mediated by digital camera work, transmitted through the Intertubes as an ASCII file, and so, from Windows 10 to Blogger to you.

That is printing then, printing now. It's amazing that printing images has gone from a high skilled job (engraving) to a low-skilled one (photocopying) and back to a high skilled one. (Coding. Although anyone can blunder along with the help of a high level blogging app.)

Maybe it's all magic?



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Technical Appendix for June, 1947: Hermione Giffard Says, "Cool Your Jets!"


I feel very, very old to know that someone named "Hermione" is a postdoc at Utrecht with a very, very good University of Chicago Press book to her name. Dr. Giffard's Making Jet Engines in World War II isn't just an excellent treatment of the early days of jet production. It is also a meditation on the relationship between invention, development and production. In a neat little turn of phrase, she asks whether Allison's move to press forward with producing its own jet engine design might show that it is "Hard to do development without production," flipping what I would take to be still the controversial and out-there position that "It is hard to do production without development," that is, innovating-by-doing, on its head.

That said, I have a bit more on my plate here. Various Great Minds of the last age said that "God is dead," either hopefully or not, with the notion that it was time to prod the world into a post-Christian morality of some or another kind. Nietzsche and Beckett are my exemplars here, because Nietzsche's prophet is the overman, and who doesn't want to identify with an "overman," and because Waiting for Godot is so ludicrously appropriate.

Because we're waiting for Google.


Whatever you think of my potted literary criticism, at least it serves to frame my mad claim that technological innovation is dead.


The Aeroplane, some time in the middle of July, 1939. Yes, I should keep better notes. The top secret gas turbines are being unboxed by private industry in the far right hand corner, while the Mosquito is trying to get its nose in the door on the bottom left.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Postblogging Technology, June 1947, II: See? No Bathing Suit!






R_.C_.
The Flamingo,
Las Vegas,
Nevada.

Dear Dad:

In spite of best intentions, I'm dashing this one off before handing it to George. I'm still in Fort Rupert. Chief is right to the extent that my ship's problem isn't in the engine, but there's definitely a problem, and I'm very glad to be on the ground again.

Well, I'd be on the ground even if my engine fell off. Just not, you know, in one piece. We can't get in there to check, but either there's an engine bracket broken, or the problem is inboard of that. In the spar? Bad news for the bird, if it is, because it'll be retiring in old Fort Rupert. 

Not that that's so bad. Fishing's good; the strait is crowded with loggers waiting out the fire season on the water, handlining the biggest salmon you ever saw, on their way to run up the Nimpkish or the streams out of the Coastal range that look close enough to touch whenever the weather opens up. (Which it actually does here, in the summer.) Unfortunately, I can't tell the CO that I've gone fishing, and we've been down to the RCAF station at Coal Harbour and bummed an old --you'd never guess-- Stranraer out of care and  maintenance. Tommy's been a wonder at getting one of the RDFs out of the Lib and into the old bird, which we've repurposed to check atmospherics. Common sense is that the best place for an intercept station is out at the Cape, but no-one's going to buy that as a navigational aid, so we have to find a good place for a radar station, too. (Also, someone has to persuade Ottawa to pay for it. Need more communist menace!) 

CO's made it very clear that I'm here until the ship is ready to fly. If he's serious, I think I need to look for a retirement place. If he's not, well, funny enough, there hasn't been an anthropologist around here since the Twenties, and Professor K. has told the Regents that he's got just the student to send up here. 


Your Loving Son, 
Reggie.

PS: Please just get the dam business settled and come back to Vancouver unventilated.

The Flamingo, 1947. Everyone's read Tim Powers' Last Call, right? It's his dry book, and probably his best. 


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Postblogging Technology, June 1947, I: Coffee-Coloured




Reginald C_.,
Royal York,
Toronto, Canada.

Dear Dad:

I'm going to dash this one off and send it via Auntie Grace, instead of putting it in hand in Fort Rupert. Yes, I'm going back there. There aren't many other places where you can put the northwesternmost radar station in the mid-Canada line, so we're going to spend a week or two doing low level surveys 'till we find a place with acceptable radio reception. Problem is, our ship has a dodgy engine --I say, though Chief disagrees with me. So instead of worrying about getting this done while we're trying to fly a new engine from Honolulu to the mud puddle at the end of the world, I'm sending it out now. 

Hope you're not expecting much gossip. Had a nice afternoon at the movies in San Fran. (Great Expectations really lived up to the hype.) Dropped B. at Santa Clara, then V.  at her college on the way back. (Tricky business, as we just missed curfew, and she doesn't want to get called back to Chicago for the summer.) A. hitched a ride to LA, where he had some business with you-know-who. I ragged him about where, exactly, foreign spies end and "liberals" start, but he got all huffy about how it's important to the left as well as the right to get the Communists out of the unions, especially influential ones like SAG. I decided not to push him too hard about exactly how you can tell someone's a Red, because, after all, you and I know they've got some sources there. I hope Mr. Wallace steers clear of 'em. Though, frankly, I don't see what the big deal is with working for the Reds back in the Depression, if that's all A. and his bosses and Hoover have got. 

Yr Son,
Reggie


Thursday, July 13, 2017

God Speed the Plough: "About the ordering of ritual vessels, I have some knowledge; but warfare I have never studied."

Not really  a review, so much as a meditation
We don't really do literary histories of Anglo-Saxon England, any more. The texts are known,  their exegesis secure. It's possible to have a literary controversy over them, but what they are trying to say about the history of Anglo-Saxon England seems more-or-less settled. Mark Atherton isn't the revisionist sort --he's not even a historian-- but he definitely thinks that the texts would benefit from a more serious examination. I've flippantly played with the idea of reading the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles with the same attention given to the Springs and Autumns, and the title is the key quote from the Analects on the Confucian art of war. That is, accepting that Master Kong does not answer Duke Ling flippantly, a true understanding of military affairs begins with the proper ordering of ritual vessels. Get rulership (morally) right, if you want to have a large army, the Sage is bluntly explaining. 

In much of what follows, I am assuming that the "praise and blame" in the Chronicles is there, but carefully disguised, because it pertains to ecclesiastical interventions into secular politics. We wall off ritual from politics and warfare at our own risk. Says Atherton, not me!

Besides picking up Atherton's monograph on the new books carousel at the library the other night, this post is mainly inspired by the Gustafson fire north of 100 Mile House, which has left me just a little pissed with your average global warming denier, of which we have an excess in the country to our south. The night before I began writing this post, the fire prompted the evacuation of the entire town. My sister, nephew and niece had left several days earlier, but it is still an open question whether they will have a home --or even employment to return to. Even family lawyers need some kind of local economic base in which to operate. 

Anyway, global warming deniers are sometimes Americans, and Americans live in the country to the south of Canada, and on 22 August, 1138, on Cowton Moor, near Northallerton, The Most Reverend Thurstan, Archbishop of York, advancing before a caroccio carrying the Sacred Host and adorned with the sacred banners of York, Beverley and Ripon (but not of Durham), encountered David, son of Malcolm, King of Alba, Prince of Cumbria, styled Earl of Northumberland, in arms. His Grace was victorious on the day, but, on 26 September, Cardinal Alberic, Bishop of Ostia, arrived at Carlisle to negotiate a peace in which David was confirmed in Northumberland, his son, Henry, in Huntingdon and Doncaster; and the bishop of Glasgow was relieved, forever, of his suffragen dependence upon York. 



This last bit is the "proper ordering of ritual vessels" part. On any but the most superficial reading, the Archbishop's victory was punished by the King of England. Thrustan was embroiled in the York-Canterbury dispute, which, in his day, turned on the stark difference between Canterbury's twenty-odd suffragen bishops, and York's . . . much smaller number. York had, in fact, only one English subordinate, and its attempts to expand into the north Atlantic world ran into the pretensions of rival bishops [Pirate bishop! Yarr!].  Glasgow was one of Thurstan's legacy suffragens, and losing the See of St. Mungo cost him more than all the gallowglass spears in the world could extract. The question of archiepiscopal status is a question of proper ordering of ritual vessels. (To finish piling on this analogy, there's a parallel with the thesis that global warming denial is a legitimate strategy of Kulturkampf. That is, since all the proposed solutions are "liberal," it is okay for a conservative to mischievously deny the plain scientific facts.) 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Postblogging Technology, May 1947, II: Unfit to Lead




Wing Commander R. Cook (ret.), OBE,
Oriental Institute,
London, U.K.

Dear Father:

Well, I promised Aunt G. that I'd continue these letters while she's in the bloom of motherhood --Should I spoil it by saying my new nephew or niece's name? No, it's hers to tell! Aside from that, I know Auntie always adds some family gossip, but I've got nothing. I've been spending half my time at the field in Hawaii, wiring the P2Vs that Lockheed's been able to deliver so far, and the other half doing radio proving flights all over the North Pacific. In fact, I'm just down the road from Quatsino, and will be handing this package off to George Wallace in a sec. 

The one advantage of this is that I'm all over the place and get to see everybody. We're flying down to San Fran after we finish up here. Tommy'll get to see his wife and kid, and I'm going to hook up with the old gang. A., is over on the West Coast to meet up with some sources. (If you're wondering, like I was, they're union guys with something to say about communists in the ranks; but with stuff in their background they don't want coming out, for which the FBI has a bit of a reputation), so V. is coming out, and B., too. We'll see a movie, then maybe dinner and some dancing, just for old time's sake. 




/s/, Your Son, Reggie.

A.