The Blue Raccoon

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Welcome To The Richmond Terrarium

This is not Richmond, Va., actual size, in this wrought iron terrarium, but if I was to design a terrarium on the theme of Richmond, it would resemble what is depicted here.

During these dread, torporous days of August, when all of Richmond is beclamed like a sailing vessel in the legendary Sargasso Sea, I feel like I'm a lizard living in one of these things. I'm also struck by how the design is reminiscent of the glass church featured in the Gillian Armstrong film Oscar and Lucinda, and this gives me an excuse to use an image of Cate Blanchett. Doesn't do much to cool me off , I'm afraid; but there she is.

The story is about the risk involved in building a sustainable life in a world of chaos and making that accomplishment while keeping a clean conscience. The titular protagonists are a minister and an heiress who meet by chance on a boat trip. Both are obsessive gamblers. They wager on the possibility of transporting a glass church across Australia.

[Here's a review of Peter Carey's novel Oscar and Lucinda, by Katherine Lesch. These concluding graphs have a resonance to me that might not otherwise possess, considering the analysis that I've been dredging through about recent events. The bolded emphasis is all mine, and may or may not make any sense to anyone who isn't aware of the late drownings and deaths of artists, and their complicated lives wherein they attempted to extract order out of confusion. Their efforts instead created a vortex that destroyed them. There's also that injunction by Theresa Duncan to Anna Gaskell to take a factory job, as Duncan felt, to free Gaskell of purported unsavory financial dealings.

"The journey culminates in Oscar's drowning, the death he always feared, as he slides in the glass church into the river. The waters of his new consciousness close around him and silence his scream in a paralysis of utterance from which he will never recover. Not even his caul can protect him; superstition dies along with his artificial attempt to build a life.

Just as Carey addicts Lucinda to a gentler drug than opium, her withdrawal from her dream is cushioned by a chance success. Lucinda's financial independence proves a fetter that she gambles in order to lose:

And when, at three o' clock in the morning, she snapped her purse shut, she had no more money than the poorest of them. The purse was empty, freed from all weight, contained nothing but clean, watered silk. She felt as light and clean as rice paper...She felt limp as a rag doll, and perfectly safe. (251)

By losing her money and her glassworks and going to work directly in a factory (instead of supervising one), Lucinda immerses herself in the movement to improve factory conditions and becomes famous "amongst students of the Australian labor movement" (428). Lucinda "[breaks] out of the circle and metamorphoses positively" (652), but she escapes the circle of hell only by chance. After all, she works in the factory as a second plan, a last resort, a necessity prescribed by financial loss. By juxtaposing the fates of Oscar and Lucinda, Carey inscribes in relief the failure of the organized quest and the artificial objective -- in Oscar's case, the doomed attempt to transplant a fragile symbol of social order into an environment that mocks man."]

The terrarium image that appeared on the apt named SARAH * NDIPITY, which of late also posted note of a an exhibiton of blackboards, as prepared by various famous folk , that was up at the University of Oxford in 2005.

One chalkboard was used by Albert Einstein for a May 16, 1931 lecture--but not erased-- and is preserved and on display at Oxford, hence the pretext of the "Bye-Bye Blackboard" show: to mark the centenary of Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.

According to the Oxford gallery text, Einstein during his version of chalk talk was outlining a model to explain the apparent expansion of the Universe. Thus:

"In the first line on the blackboard, D, the measure of expansion in the universe, is defined in terms of the expansion factor P. The expression for the density of matter in the universe, given by ρ in the third line, is derived from the field equations. The last four lines contain numerical data, giving values for density, radius and age of the universe, where ‘L. J’ stands for ‘Licht Jahr’ (light year) and ‘J’ for ‘Jahr’ (year). According to the last line, the age of the universe is about 10, or perhaps 100 billion years (the bracket indicates an alternative figure, not a product of two figures)."

Not as fundamental and cosmological, but nontheless quite fascinating, is Brian Eno's diagram explaining the importance of Arabic music and its role in providing one of the vibrating strands of popular music.

Politician Tony Benn, however, provided some democratic ideas. Take a moment and read. Sounds like a radical, doesn't it? The basic principles of a fre society, as Benn has them, constitute the right to question the accumulation and distribution of power.

On this note, speaking of power, I'm turning on
the air conditioner in my office. It's like a freaking terrarium in here.


The fifth installment of "Seven Kinds of Denial Just to Get Out of Bed," the exploration of the Duncan-Lee effect will be posted here -- but in smaller, bite-sized chunks -- in a little while.

Meanwhile, I was grazing in the blogs when I stumbled upon the work of Poulet at Theresa Duncan Central, (first post, August 5). Here, he gives a summary of media coverage, but, most important, he disassembles Duncan's apparent dissembling about some of her blog posts, just working from the much-repeated "The History of Electricity" theme. This caused much heavy sighing on my part, out of just disappointment (odd sensation in and of itself), and Poulet gives the benefit of the doubt: maybe Duncan wrote the Wikipedia entries she wasn't crediting. Well, it's mighty fast and loose out here in the Interweb wilds.

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