Maurice “The Rocket” Richard

Two minutes in the sin bin assessed on all readers of this blog – for looking so good. And you, yes you there cutie, you get a 5 minute major.

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I wish I could find my (pre-digital) pictures of the Maurice Richard statue I took when in Montreal with the Design Student (other photographic subjects: crooked knives in the Hudson Bay Company Museum, capybaras in the Biodome – none of this should shock you). One thing that shouldn’t have surprised me – The Rocket’s full name is Joseph Henri Maurice Richard, Sr. I once worked at a manufacturing facility in New Hampshire with a group of older Franco-American men. We’d worked together for a couple years before I – culturally ignorant as I was – discovered that they ALL had the same first name. Ben’s full name was Joseph Benjamin  X, Roger’s was Joseph Roger Y, etc.  See also – Boom Boom Geoffrion and The Pocket Rocket. Bah, cultural homogenization – it’s been a long time since I’ve heard a sentence construction like, “Up the hill, the car she went.”

Spoiler – video below is a minute and a half of introduction and six minutes of standing ovation.

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Grecian Formula via LGM.

William Gibson as a Nature Writer

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(h) those that are included in this classification*

I twote recently that I’d had a bit of semi-dreamtime inspiration: William Gibson is a nature writer. I think a case can be made for it and friends are curious about what the heck I’m yammering about, so here goes.

I’ve said it before – I’m not wild about the natural/human distinction. Yes, it’s obvious and oftentimes useful but it also facilitates a lot of delusional and destructive behavior. Allow me to repost a population/time graph:

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If we convince ourselves that we’re different, not ‘natural’, that the rules that apply to every other critter on the planet don’t apply to us (because we’re the crown of creation) we can ignore the obvious population dynamic conclusions suggested by the graph (crash). Our ‘us and them’ outlook gets in the way less dramatically as well – Pollan’s The Botany of Desire does a great job looking at domesticated plants from a plant’s eye, co-evolutionary standpoint. It’s not solely about us.

That being said, there do seem to be some things that make us different from our nearest relatives (posting on blogs could be one). E. O. Wilson suggests in The Superorganism that there are 3 entities one must keep an eye on when examining the evolution of social insects – the gene, the individual and the hive/nest/mound/superorganism. If you buy in to the notion of culture as an area where selection can occur (as in meme, etc.), one could build a similar triplet for H. sapien. Regardless – the fact that we can externalize and transmit information so well is one big adaptation that’s made us so (so far) successful. [aside] Looked at from this perspective, the made world – from Toyota to Tolstoy – is a natural phenomenon. Yes, we and our stuff are changing planetary systems, but that’s happened before – that exempts us neither from other natural processes nor from being a natural process ourselves.

All of the above is a perhaps overlong argument for being pretty relaxed about the  natural world/made world distinction. Given that, Gibson as nature writer becomes a lot easier to accept. I’m using ‘nature writer’ here as a pretty inclusive category – one who write stories, as Norman Maclean said, with trees in them – tales where the exterior world is noticed and plays a part; where the environment is included in an important rather than peripheral way.

I’d recommended Spook Country to a friend and she responded that it felt like there was a lot of ‘stuff’ in it – I think she may have used the phrase product placement. “Hmm”, said I; though I’d noticed the presence of the world of things in both (at that point) of the Bigend books, it had never jumped out at me. I’d accepted the world as described by Gibson – because of my made/natural suspicion? Because the things he described tended to be interesting and in some consumerkulturny way, charismatic? Dunno. I read his latest – Zero History – last week (rippin’ tale, BTW) and had T’s comment floating in the back of my mind when I opened the book. The second paragraph:

Pearlescent silver, this one [taxi]. Glyphed in Prussian Blue, advertising something German, banking services or business software; a smoother simulacrum of its black ancestors, its faux-leather upholstery a shade of orthopedic fawn.

I’d be quite satisfied with a similar description applied to a startled woodchuck bolting for its hole as our natural-world-only protagonist walks across a farmer’s corn field. And that’s the thing – Gibson’s Bigend books are set in cities, in the world of made things, ideas and human generated external info flows. He describes the environment his characters are embedded in with the care any good author who writes books with trees and multilevel parking garages in them would.

© LTI Limited reproduced with permission. Fairway and TX shape is a registered design. Fairway™, TX™, the LTI device, the LTI logo and the London Taxis International logo are all trademarks of LTI Limited.

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I’m not sure it’s coincidental that the title of the first book – Pattern Recognition – evokes one of my favorite ‘in the woods’ phenomena – something that I’ve heard called native vision. Native vision is the trained pattern recognition that allows a local to pick a whitetailed deer out of the jumbled shapes of the fall woods, where someone who didn’t know that kind of woods wouldn’t see a dang thing.

I may write more on the topic – or I may hear back that this is all BS and I should stop before I embarrass myself further – but I wanted to toss this out sooner rather than later. Comments more than welcome…

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[aside] One of the concerns Ray Kurzweil brings up in The Age of Spiritual Machines is that there seems to be room for one species in a given niche. He speculates that self-awareness may define a niche – so what happens to us when we create intelligent AIs? [Skynet, that's what.] It’s of interest to me that there are MANY species of social insect – clearly superorganism is not a niche – why would we jump to the conclusion that self-awareness and externalizing info was one as well?

Saturday AM Cartoons

This one popped up because I rewatched Casino Royale (the first, messy one) recently – I was sure that Ronald Searle had done the titles until I re-ran the credits. Abject apologies, Mr. Williams. Mike Myers – the Austin Powers titles should have looked like this.

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A new/old bit via @larryclow and @terabyte240:

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And an old/old bit featuring Mr. Calloway singing a song I may be using in a project next Halloweentime:

Two Russian book links

Via @bibliodyssey, Semën Ul’ianovich Remezov’s Khorograficheskaya Kniga.

By the mid-17th century, Russian development in Siberia extended all the way to the Pacific, but from the seat of Russian power in Moscow, there was still little known about the area. By all reports there were at that time no maps of Siberia in Russia and so, seeking to collect knowledge and understanding of their extended interests in the area, late in the 1600s, the Siberian Court Office of Moscow ordered the production of a number standardized settlement maps. Cities and towns were to be represented and notes made on surrounding features of the land, particularly their situation on rivers and the native settlements within certain proximities.

Throughout Siberia, land-surveyors and draftsmen were recruited to do work on this massive project, but one notable man in Tobol’sk, Semën Ul’ianovich (alternately, Semyon Ul’yanovich) Remezov, would emerge as the primary cartographer of the region, creating, by the estimate of historian James R. Akerman, some 80 percent of the surviving Siberian maps of his century. Akerman’s biographical sketch of Remezov tells a compelling story: a low-level government administrator who brought creative energy to his census registry work, compiling ethnographic data in the depths of Siberia, a “restless” intellect who contributed much to his city of Tobol’sk, and an artist who would capture a dynamic sense of Siberia on page after page of beautifully rendered maps. *

Siberia, especially in it’s less than accurate usage meaning ‘all that stuff east of the Urals’, is HUGE, my knowledge of the geography of the are is limited and my ability to read Cyrillic script and/or Russian is nonexistent. As a result, this atlas is for me like a dispatch from another planet – Borges and Tolkien do some mapping.

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I’m wondering if this could be the maritime province – Primorsky Krai? Great Wall at the bottom, Korea to the east, and the Amur and Ussuri watershed center. If so, that’d be an Amur Leopard gamboling about in the upper left.

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Via the consistently great Five Books, Robert Chandler on Tales of Soviet Russia.

The Soviet writer he [Vasily Grossman] was closest to was Andrey Platonov and the stories do have quite a Platonov-like quality to them. There is one about a dog, just called ‘The Dog’, and it’s quite close to reality. There were several mongrel dogs that were sent up into space on the early sputniks and this is a story about the first dog to be sent up into space and to come back alive to earth.

Laika? No. She died, didn’t she?

Laika died. That was the very first dog. This is the fictionalised successor to Laika and it’s very unexpected. I showed it to a poet friend called Elizabeth Cook and her immediate comment was that it was really shamanistic! It would never have occurred to me but actually it’s a valid comment. The heroes of the story are the female dog and the scientist in charge of the laboratory, a really hard-headed, unsentimental scientist who, to everyone’s amazement, gets quite besotted by this animal, and he has visions of her going out into space and for the first time the cosmos will penetrate the eyes of a living being. And somehow he will look into her eyes when she’s back on earth and will see the cosmos. It’s very warm and tender and funny, and there’s a certain irony to these mystical ideas, but some seriousness to them as well. Quite a lot of them are about animals.

Three two-wheelers

If I do a three-fer on bikes, does that make it a tricycle post?

A nice old Mercian spotted at the Portsmouth Farmers Market:

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Campy downtube shifters – the retro-grouch in me is well pleased.

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A blast from the past logo (good memories):

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The Mercian badge:

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And a better version from elsewhere on Flickr:

Headbadge decal

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My guess is that the pilots of these babies were next door at the coffee shop – getting their fill of hot drinks before the cool and breezy Halloween Parade.

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Via Ride the Machine, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Simpson chain.

A draft:

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The Guvnor Owner’s Club tells us the cyclist depicted is Jimmy Michael. Wikipedia’s entry on Michael includes this interesting bit:

His biggest engagement in Britain was the so-called Chain Race at Catford track in 1896. William Spears Simpson had invented the Simpson Lever Chain, which he was so insistent was an improvement over conventional chains that he staked part of his fortune on it.Pryor Dodge wrote:

“In the fall of 1895, Simpson offered ten-to-one odds that riders with his chain would beat bicyclists with regular chains. Later known as the Chain Matches, these races at the Catford track in London attracted huge crowds estimated between twelve and twenty thousand in June of 1896. Simpson’s team not only included the top racers – Tom Linton, Jimmy Michael, and Constant Huret – but also the Gladiator pacing team brought over from Paris. Pacers enabled a racer to ride faster by shielding him from air resistance. Although Simpson won the Chain Matches, they only proved that the Gladiator pacers were superior to their English rivals.[5]“

Michael was pitched against Charley Barden in the five-mile race. What happened next – indeed whether it happened in London or at another Chain Race in Germany – is now lost. But stories start with Michael taking a drink offered to him by Warburton[6] and end with his riding poorly to his falling off his bike, remounting and setting off in the wrong direction.[7] The one thing accounts agree on is that the crowd shouted “Dope!”[8]

Michael’s strange behaviour at this meeting, and his withdrawal, led him to accuse Warburton of doping him. Many rumours surrounded Warburton but none had been proven and he sued for libel.

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And the approved ad – note the quints in the background and -I assume- pacing le Boulanger. Quads and quints were used for pacing before being supplanted by dernys.

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The Simpson Lever Chain is a bit of oddness – equal parts unnecessary complication and perpetual motion machine. The chainwheel interface operates more or less conventionally, but the cog engages the top of the triangular link – thus the ‘leverage’?

The Simpson Chain, of which so much was heard at the last Stanley show and so little since, has entered the cycle field in a practical way through the medium of a company by whom it is to be promoted. Whatever may be its ultimate fate and merits it has friends and opponents whose views are as fervid as they are diverse. The Cyclist condemns it, denies the genuineness of the victories it undoubtedly has recently gained in contests and roundly contests its value. On the other band, so important and disinterested an organ as The Sporting and Dramatic News is one of the ardent supporters of its claims, says of it, that “There is nothing simpler than the Simpson chain, which can be applied to any safety cycle now in use at a very moderate cost.”*