songofcopper: (montesquiou by doucet)
Hello. Herein, a potpourri of petals.

Attempts at preserving the transient come in many forms. Some people take photographs. Some make jam. My instinctive preference is to write things down.

The other day, mine eye landed upon something so ideally symbolic of DECADENCE that I had to record the encounter in my Büchlein.

Even as I was standing there, in a nearby shop doorway, sheltering from the drizzle as I scribbled, it hit me that most folks would have taken a picture, but despite the phone in my bag I am not used to having that facility. Besides, there is something quite indiscreet and gauche-seeming about constant cameraphone snappage. A person with a proper camera, out on a visual safari: that looks purposeful and, above all, honest. But someone gawping and holding up a phone just looks gracelessly voyeuristic. (…Someone sneaking into a shop doorway to make notes: what on earth does that look like?! Highly suspicious, probably, but the habit is ingrained/incurable.)

Anyway - acquiescent to the constraints of form, I have taken a photograph of my pencil note in order to share it with you:

Handwritten notebook page reading, Decadent object: rain-ruined peacock feather upon the pavement.

01/03/2017 Decadent object: rain-ruined peacock feather upon the pavement.”

(The thought about ‘Marmalade humans!’ is unrelated, thrown in as a free bonus. I was thinking of how we greatly prize Marmalade cats and that this fondness could also be applied to red-headed humans. An antidote to the philistine cry of ‘Ginger!’)


People, phones… What am I carping for? Is it really any worse than troops of Victorians sketching everything in sight? As for loathing textspeak ’n’ sexting, just take a look at the postcard section of your local antiques market. Often these ephemeral curiosities feature saucy cartoons, portraits of Noted Beauties, photos of underdressed actresses or athletes. The messages are frequently cryptic love notes and tryst set-ups, and can be signed in secret ways - initials, pet-names (‘Your Sweetheart Always’), or just ‘from You-Know-Who’.

The throwaway stuff that seems not to matter, or that actively irritates us, generally turns out to be the most interesting and useful to historians. Aren’t you glad that people wrote on walls in Pompeii? And yet, you’d probably be cross if some present-day autographer tagged the front of your house. Graffiti: an interesting area to ponder. For example, how do you feel about government-approved areas set aside for street art? Can anything that is placed there have the same sensibility and significance as art that is made guerilla-fashion/wherever the maker wants/illegally? And again, what about transience? Once an item of street art has arrived upon a surface, are we to guard and preserve it, or is it fair game for rival artists, municipal street cleaners, vandals?

How long must something survive ‘against the odds’ before it becomes precious heritage?


Will there one day be a way to ‘collect’ digital ephemera? Captured in some kind of storage media, equivalent to an album? Or will we fish for it virtually, dipping a notional jar into long-forgotten isolated internet ponds whose connexion to the larger ocean long since silted up?

The way digital information looks is highly dependent on the software we are using. Will it be someone’s job some day to recreate ancient lost fonts? Simulate antiquated browsers?

My curiosity about this is brought about partly by current reading-matter.

Photo of two books: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon and Hadrian the Seventh by Fr. Rolfe

Here’s a picture of my most recent book purchases. Goodness me, how these two writers would have hated each other! Sei Shōnagon was a courtier, well-versed in etiquette, confident in her status. She delighted in looking down on those she considered ‘beneath her’. Her ‘Pillow Book’ seems to have been begun in private, the writing personal, incidental, but came to be discovered and cherished during her lifetime. She was prized for her wit and scholarship. Mr Rolfe was a frustrated middle-class fantasist; a paranoid, attention-hungry misogynist, a pariah, prone to grubby scandal. He could only ever have been appreciated posthumously, and that in a spirit of trespass.

Both were keen on calligraphy.

Well - I have begun on the Pillow Book, whose miscellany of astute observations, gossipy anecdotes and lambent poetry makes for fascinating and pleasurable reading. Mr Rolfe I’ll have to psych myself up for (he can wait until I’m feeling particularly lorn and self-sabotaging).

But what I meant to say was, the Pillow Book belongs to a genre called zuihitsu in Japanese - which Vicipaedia defines as “a genre of Japanese literature consisting of loosely connected personal essays and fragmented ideas that typically respond to the author's surroundings.”

That sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? When You and I write things here (or offline in our notebooks) we may very well never ascend to the pinnacles attained by Sei Shōnagon, but we are gathering together snippets of our experience, recording our impressions, perhaps even writing poetry. Future historians may have cause to thank us one day.


AND FINALLY, here’s a notebook with a macabre history - and, well, yes, it’s another joyous local news headline: ‘Wallpaper which killed Napoleon Bonaparte on sale in Exeter.’

Don’t get too excited, folks. We are not talking rolls of the stuff on special offer at Homebase. It’s simply that a local auction house is offering for sale a scrapbook cover, which is alleged to have been made from Napoleon’s famously-arsenical bedroom wallpaper.

After Hitler’s phone and Napoleon’s wallpaper, whatever can be next?! My prediction shall be… Bismarck’s moustache-trimmings. Watch this space, collectors.


Ooh, finally-finally, I have pretty much always referred to Wikipedia as ‘Vicipaedia’, but it wasn’t until the other day that I learned that the Latin language edition of Wikipedia is really truly actually called Vicipaedia! Accidental-correct-guess-success, baby. Yeah.

Date: Tuesday, 7 March 2017 23:27 (UTC)From: [identity profile]
I noticed my all-time favorite graffito behind a building I ride my bicycle past:

Worship satin.

Date: Thursday, 9 March 2017 22:46 (UTC)From: [identity profile]
Oh dear me, that is wonderful! :-) I shall definitely have to steal it.

I quite like Charlie Mortdecai's all-time fave:

The penis mightier than the sword.

Date: Friday, 10 March 2017 03:30 (UTC)From: [identity profile]
But it's missing a verb. Imagine the possibilities!

Date: Wednesday, 5 April 2017 14:20 (UTC)From: [identity profile]
Nick Bantock did a lovely book called something like "Urgent 2nd Class" about all the lovely ephemera he found in antique/junk shops--- stationery, postcards, letterhead. Some very beautiful things. When I lived in Vienna, I used to haunt such places looking for pre-1918 postcards. In c. 1910 Vienna, there were endless postcards with reproductions of photos of the imperial family, and I loved sending those out to friends.

I know someone who did buy half a dozen sheets of Hitler's office letterhead--- he couldn't resist having one sheet Xeroxed massively. Perfect stationery, I was assured, for letters of complaint. I'd have thought it might work for love letters, too, but no one gets Unity Mitford jokes these days.

Anyway--- I am in love with ephemera, which for someone who lives in a tiny flat is a bad addiction to have!

Date: Wednesday, 5 April 2017 14:22 (UTC)From: [identity profile]
Rolfe's "Desire and Pursuit of the Whole" is a perfect Freudian feast.


songofcopper: (Default)

April 2017

2425 2627282930

Most Popular Tags

Eavesdrop, snoop, and sigh with yearning…

This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

NB: If you add me in an unsolicited fashion, please introduce yourself. Otherwise I will probably ignore you.

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Saturday, 23 September 2017 05:47
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios