Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bonjour. Au revoir.

Tremendously excited about projects in London. Writing a lot. Working on a new poetry/prose collaboration using found and re-edited text, and very much enjoying the freedom and time to read books at my leisure and think about thesis-related ideas. It's nice to allow myself thoughts that evolve into new creatures after hours and days, rather than only having the headspace for short bursts of activity quickly forgotten. I am still myself, I will always have one too many things to do, but for now, for here, in London, in one of the most bustling cities in the world, I've managed to slow down a little. 

Mostly I've just been noticing how otherworldily-similar this city is to Chicago. Life seems to be the same, it's in the same language, except every third thing is just a little bit different, just that much more removed from what I expect. It's like Amelie changing her neighbor's shoes to a size smaller, or his lightbulb to be a bit dimmer. It's deja vu but not quite. It's a dream lived only in the corners of your eyes when you're trying to test your peripheral vision.

Today I visited Christie's South Kensington and had the treat of seeing an upcoming auction lot on display from the mysterious "Travel, Science, and Natural History" department. Loads of very strange and wonderful things.

Three taxidermied hummingbirds, c. 1850.

A Huntley & Palmers biscuit from the stores of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1908-1909, Cape Royds.

British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904.  42 contact prints, the majority by Reginald Skelton, the subjects including Discovery in Winter Quarters at Ross Island, Mount Erebus and the scenery around Hut Point, sledging scenes and camps on the Barrier, and the return of the Southern Party.

A THREE-ROTOR ENIGMA CIPHER MACHINE, circa 1939. Number A-1206, with electric core, three aluminium rotors each stamped WaA618, raised 'QWERTZ' keyboard with crackle black painted metal case, plugboard in the front with ten patch leads, carrying case with spare bulbs, and green night-time filter.

A FRENCH TREPANNING SET, Leseur, late 18th century. Signed on the drill LESEUR also with a punched maker's mark of a crown over an A, drill-heads, perforators, elevators, lenticulars with turned wooden handles, in fitted case. 13.5in. (34.5cm.) long in case.

A MODEL OF THE 1784 GÉRARD FLYING MACHINE, FRENCH, LATE 19TH CENTURY. Painted wood and metal model with two wings on model engine mechanism, the tail feather and forward rudder operated by two interior handles, two opening doors, on three wheels. 21in. (54cm.) long.

Gah! It has feathers and a tiny door and tiny wheels!

Wonderful. From the larger poster, below.

TABLEAU D'AVIATION , French, Circa 1880. Lithographed poster illustrating mechanical flying machines from 1500-1880, by E. DIEUAIDE, 18, Rue de la Banque -- Paris, backed on linen. 21½ x 27in.

A BOXED AMERICAN ORRERY AND TELLURIAN SET. Josiah or Dwight Holbrook, mid-19th century. [With an accompanying awesome book: The teachers guide to illustration... 12th ed. (Chicago: Andrews, 1873).]

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