Archives for the month of: April, 2010

Gaspar de Guzmán y Pimentel, Count-Duke of Olivares. A relatively youthful Olivares in 1624, three years into his time in power. By Velazquez.

I know it’s a bit late, but I was thinking in the bath today of ideas for the British election campaign.  Everyone — well, really, it’s just John Lanchester of the LRB, but I trust him —  thinks there will have to be massive public spending cuts in Britain by whoever wins, and it’s going to be horrible all round.  Well, I had an idea:  why not scale back British defence spending to the level of Norway?  Britain spends ₤36 billion a year on defence, while Norway uses a mere ₤3.6 billion.  What does Britain get for the extra money ?  Nothing at all.  All they really need is the changing of the guard for the tourists and a couple of butch  young men with assault rifles at the airports.   Britain could save ₤32 billion a year!  They could funnel the former soldiers into teaching, gardening and major public works.  If nobody likes that idea (I’m betting the Tory party will be against it), Britain could always just privatise the military: sell it off, like Mrs Thatcher & co. did with the railways and the water supply.

The Count-Duke Of Olivares. Velázquez, 1634.

I was going to take some pictures of Cloudy, our beautiful Faverolle hen who has feathers on her feet:

But goats love to know what’s going on,

and Misty got very interested.

Recently I’ve been noticing her horns

How long they are getting.

The dark brown colour towards the tip is caused by the build up of lanolin grease from their wool.

Now their wool is so long that grass seeds get stuck in it.  It’s very irritating.

My intention in my previous picture of him had been to put John Stuart Mill in the clothes of a contemporary liberal philosopher, and when that turned out to be a suit I thought it worked quite well with Mill’s other job as a Liberal MP.  But then someone said that he looked like a bank manager, and that didn’t sound quite right. So I consulted Wikipedia, and: at the age of fourteen Mill spent a year in France with the family of Sir Samuel Bentham*. The mountain scenery he saw led to a lifelong taste for mountain landscapes.

*Jeremy Bentham’s younger brother, Samuel, was a noted English mechanical engineer, inventor and  naval architect who was at one time employed by Catherine the Great.

Update: Thanks to modern technology, we can now see (as Martyn Cornell has pointed out below) that Mill is the spitting image of Anthony Barber, the late half-Danish Tory 1970s Chancellor of the Exchequer.

I suppose I ought to also do AC wearing AC’s clothes, but you can look that up yourselves.

The great man as he might appear today.  Here he is, having had a shave and wearing a modern liberal philosopher’s outfit, complete with backstage pass.  Mrs Mill chose his tie.

Three Victorians:

John Stuart Mill,

Frank Lloyd Wright


James McNeill Whistler,

have in common first names that cannot be used without a second.  You can’t simply say “John Mill” or “Frank Wright” or “James Whistler” *.  But these aren’t hyphenated Roman Catholic names (John-Paul, for example) and they aren’t double-barreled last names.  Wright — a very vain man (you see it in the photograph: look at the side-lighting and the necktie) — was always known (perhaps even to his parents) as “Mr Wright”;  I’ve certainly never heard of anyone who addressed him as… “Frank”.

There are some others where the reason for the extra name is clear:  Charles James Fox (a little earlier) was presumably named after the Stuart king from whom he was illegitimately descended.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s name was always begging to be recited in full.  Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s first names are linguistically related to his pen-name, Lewis Caroll.

I expect there are loads more — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, isn’t he one?  Am I right that this is mostly a 19th century thing, and can anyone supply a convincing reason why it’s done?  Why not “John Mill”, why is the “Stuart” necessary? Did his wife call him John Stuart?   Reciting the extra name is, after all, an enormous waste of energy and time.

* (I don’t include George Bernard Shaw on the list, because he is also known — at least in Britain — as Bernard Shaw).

Yesterday we walked in a different direction. There were still blåveis leaves to eat.

Contrary to what most people think, dogs don’t eat only meat. They always grab some vegetables when we’re out for a walk.

We passed two old men who seemed astonished to see the goats walking behind me.  I was preoccupied with my camera and I wasn’t paying anyone any attention.  Vesla obviously regretted that we missed the chance for a chat.

The small dog isn’t used to going this way and the rocks are much bigger than him, but he’s up for anything; he’s very game for a sixteen-year-old.

These boulders have tumbled down from the cliff of the escarpment behind our house.  It’s hard to see quite how big they are; these two were about seven feet high.

This area is protected.  It’s not like a city park: nobody comes to clear away the fallen trees, and the birds and animals and insects who live here make use of the pieces.  Every time we come to a fallen tree, we have to decide whether we’re going to scramble over the top…

…or crawl underneath.

I used to somehow block out the fallen trees — something about them being dead, I think — but I’ve come to love the amazing jumbled-up expressionist compositions they make,

and their contrast to this kind of landscape, right next door:

There were some extraordinarily puffy looking clouds yesterday.  My daughter says they may be Icelandic volcano droppings.

The lake is still frozen, if only just.  It’s freshwater and it takes some weeks to unfreeze after the winter.

The dogs & I went around one side of this big rock.  The goats went around the other side.

Look what they found: an exercise class paying obeisance to the volcanic ash.

What the hell is going on?  says Holly.  In the background is another civilization, our local town.

I’ve somehow lost half the photographs I took today, including a beautiful one of Vesla jumping over a stream.  They’ve just disappeared into thin air.  There will now be a short pause while I consolidate my remaining shots, and I leave you with this picture of a bowl of some sort of ranunculæ on our dining table.  As you see they’re past their best, and that’s when we like them best …

If you want to hear a really great piece of singing, take this link to Julia’s site, Meliora Latent, where you can hear her younger brother, Carlos d’Onofrio, sing  “Nessun dorma” from Turandot, by Pucini, with the St. Petersburg State Chamber Choir and the St. Petersburg Festival Orchestra, conducted by Kristofer Wahlander …

The weather’s beautiful, and we are doing this every morning.

My wife took some pictures on Saturday, up in the mountains.  They’re of Ringebu stave church (partly 13th century), which is near our cabin but a thousand feet lower down the hill.  I’m not quite sure why the tower is painted red, it was added 1631.

Anyway, it has a shingled roof.  I like these diamond-shaped ones:

The belfry next door has a slate roof.  The building’s called the støpulen, a word hitherto unknown to my wife:

On the church’s website there’s another building section that shows substantially more bracing of the structure than the last one did.  I don’t know if it will satisfy Sig; the column footings are quite small, but I suppose the flooring stops the columns from slipping off.

Except for the scale and the post & beam structure, the section is not really very different from an early-Christian basilica, with very compressed aisles:

Also on the church’s site is this, which answers Marie-Lucie’s question about the masks at the tops of the columns in the last church, it says

Stave churches were built at a time when paganism was giving way to Christianity. In several churches one can see paintings of what we believe represent the figures of norse gods high up at the top of the pillars [i.e. columns] under the roof. In this church two runic inscriptions, two animal drawings and the figure of a man have been found crudely carved in the wall.

Here’s a rather nice gravestone in front of Ringebu church:

And the notice at the gates (click on it to get it big enough to read):

Mail deliveries have been stopped to a house after postal workers were attacked by an elderly cat, Royal Mail said.

Nineteen-year-old Tiger has attacked three people delivering at his home recently. Now Royal Mail has told owner Tracey Brayshaw her pet is aggressive and it will not be delivering post to the house in Farsley, near Leeds.

The black-and-white cat, which is aged 93 in human terms, sleeps for 20 hours a day, Mrs Brayshaw said.

The 43-year-old pharmacy dispenser said she cannot believe her cat has now been labelled a health and safety risk.

She told the Yorkshire Post: “If Tiger climbs up a tree he is done in for the rest of the day. We’ve had him since he was a kitten. He has never done anything like what they say he has done before.”

The service has been suspended for two weeks and Tiger’s trick of pouncing on postal workers and chasing them down the garden path is forcing Mrs Brayshaw to collect her mail from the local sorting office.

She said: “It was funny at first but it is going a bit far now.”

In a statement Royal Mail said : “We are sorry for the inconvenience to Mrs Brayshaw and, as we want to resume delivery of mail to her address as quickly as possible, we’re trying to agree a way to do this and avoid our employees suffering further nasty injuries as has happened three times already.”

From today’s Guardian.

One trademark of modern architecture is the free plan.  Instead of using walls to bear the weight of a building, the load comes down to the ground on columns.  Freed of bearing loads, walls can be placed where they are needed, saving space and material; you can even have a continuous strip window when there’s nothing to bear on the glass.

Villa Savoye. Poissy, 1929. Le Corbusier. (© k+NAP)

Despite its association with modernism, the free plan has been around for a long time; for example, here’s a post-and-beam structure, a Norwegian stave church in Oslo.  It’s from the twelfth century;  it’s no longer used, it’s part of an outdoor museum of traditional buildings called the Folkemuseet:

The buildings at the Folkesmuseet have been brought there from different parts of the country when they’ve outlived their usefulness.  This stave church is not huge.  You can see from the person in black standing on the left that it’s only about the height of a three-storey building – easily within the range of a bearing-wall structure – but the Vikings chose to use a kind of  free plan (see: it too has a kind of strip window wrapped around the ground floor).  Look at the inside:

The space is enclosed by walls, but there are objects inside the room – columns – carrying the roof load and the other various loads down to the ground.  See how thin the walls are, from this nineteenth-century section drawing, they’re just a layer of paneling:

It must have been awfully cold in the winter.  Here’s a plan drawing of a very similar stavkirke (stav means post, kirke is church):

The walls are independent of the structure.  If you still need proof that what you can see on the outside is mere paneling, here’s a picture of the Oslo church before they moved it to the museum, it looked completely different:

Stavechurch at Gol in Halingdal. Drawing by Hans Gude, 1846.

They disassembled it and moved it in winter, on sledges, but they only reused the frame.  The exterior had undergone changes in 1664 and 1802 and the sponsor of the project, the so-called Society for the Preservation of Ancient Norwegian Monuments, decided to remake the exterior to appear more medieval.  To do it they copied the exterior of Borgund Stavkirke at Sogn, on the west coast of Norway (the plan & sepia-coloured drawing above are from Borgund):

Left: Borgund (photo Glaurung). Right: Oslo.

(One influential precedent for fudging the past, which we find so shocking, was Viollet le Duc’s work at Nôtre Dame de Paris and at other gothic sites in France.  He was interested in creating what he considered to be perfect gothic structures and saw no irony in making them less authentic in the process.)

Siganus Sutor who is a structural engineer thinks stave churches look unstable, like a house of cards, as if they might blow over in the wind.   Not all old Norwegian wooden buildings conceal their structure.  Next door to the stave church at the Folkesmuseet is the building below, you can just see the cantilevered ends of the wood beams under the roof:

It’s a stabbur, a building to store food on a farm, raised above the ground to keep rodents at bay.  The building rests on a wooden above-ground foundation: huge massive beams, tree-trunks that have been carved and fitted together like a rubik’s cube sit simply supported on eight squared-off boulders:

There are still lots of stave churches left in Norway, although many others have burnt down.  A little while ago, Nijma pointed out the stylistic similarity between Norwegian stave churches and temples in Thailand.

Update, Thursday 8 April: Language Hat is up and running again.  Previously, on Language Hat, The Post:

If you can’t get hold of Language Hat at the moment it’s because the service is temporarily down.  Hopefully the problem (caused by the Language Hat domain name having expired) can be resolved today; however, don’t forget that most North Americans don’t get up until after lunchtime–dinnertime, in some cases–so it still might take some hours before service resumes.

Russian soviet-era test card.

Apparently this happened once before.  In Language’s own words:

On April 04, 2007, I wrote on LH:

While I’m here, let me apologize for the outage this morning; my domain had expired (warnings were sent to a defunct e-mail address, it’s a long story), and I had some anxious moments before, my domain name provider, fixed things, excellent fellows that they are. I was terrified some internet vulture was sitting around just waiting to scoop up my helpless domain and I’d never get it back; I had to contemplate the horrible prospect of Life Without Languagehat. It made me realize how much a part of my life you are, Gentle Readers, in your capacities as charming players of conversational badminton as well as providers of nuggets of elusive fact—and I seek those nuggets as eagerly as my cat Pushkin seeks lost corks and artificial mice, I claw at Google and reference works as assiduously as he claws at the gap under the refrigerator (where such things so often wind up), and I am as grateful to those of you who provide them as Pushkin is to my wife when she fetches the broom, sweeps the handle under the fridge, and pulls out the ardently desired playthings. And if in aught I have given offense, I do heartily repent me. I seem to have lost at least one internet pal of whom I was inordinately fond, owing to some pronunciamento I don’t even remember pronouncing, and I’ve had enough friends and acquaintances drift away in the course of my life not to want to lose more. I grew up arguing with brothers and friends, and self-assured ideamongering is the stuff of lively conversation to me, to be enjoyed as sportier folk enjoy a good game of handball; I tend to forget that when the ball bounces wrong, people can get hurt. If bluff and bluster be a fault, God help the wicked! No, my good readers; banish Kos, banish Wonkette, banish Instapundit: but for sweet Languagehat, kind Languagehat, true Languagehat, valiant Languagehat, and therefore more valiant, being, as he is, old Languagehat, banish not him your company!

I just found these pictures of Vesla.  It says they are from last Whitsun, or pinse as they call it in Norway; Pfingsten in German.

I’d certainly forgotten about them.

And, if I posted them last year, I hope you have too.