Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence Weschler’
November 9, 2012 | by John Glassie
From the time I was really young, I carried around an excellent fact about my father: he’d once stood on the very top of the Washington Monument. On the pointy tip, on the outside. That was the notion that I grew up with. I remember having some trouble picturing the circumstances in which he might have done this. We lived in the Maryland suburbs of D.C. and so I often saw the monument out the car window on trips downtown. I think I felt some retroactive worry for his safety, and I wondered about his apparently incredible sense of balance, but the truth of the story was never in doubt. It came up casually in conversation. Questions were shrugged off, or maybe I was too young to understand. Apparently it had to do with his job.
Later on he told me more. My father was a young engineer involved with the 1934 renovation of the monument. (That’s not a typo: He was born in 1908, and he was fifty-three years old when I was born in 1961.) Scaffolding had been erected all around, and as part of the project the solid aluminum point that sits on the very top was removed for refurbishment, leaving a flat square of marble. My father gave me the impression that he actually stood, or stepped, on that square, about 555 feet off the ground, before the point was reset. Judging from pictures I’ve recently found of other men standing around it, I’m not totally sure about that. Even so I’m not any less impressed than I ever was. I always thought my father was a pretty goddamn cool guy.
January 9, 2012 | by Lizzie Wade
The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California, is filled with objects that disorient as much as they delight. There’s the Deprong Mori, a bat that emits X-rays instead of sound waves and is thereby able to fly through solid objects. There’s the yelping, taxidermied head of the American gray fox, whose voice, upon further inspection, emanates from a small projection of a howling man that hovers over the fox’s unblinking eyeball. There’s a group of microscopes set up to display tiny images of vases and flowers composed of the scales from butterfly wings and a labyrinth of models depicting various superstitions and other pieces of folk wisdom, ranging from the curative properties of mouse pie to the importance of shrouding mirrors during thunderstorms. If you manage to locate the staircase to the second floor, you will be invited to take tea and contemplate detailed oil portraits of five of the Soviet space dogs.
While the Museum of Jurassic Technology, or MJT, might be described as a natural history museum, there is no cataloging to be done here, and no positivist truth about our world to be revealed. Whether or not the phenomena on display are, shall we say, verifiable is an open question. But the museum is far from a simple puzzle where truth can or should be cleanly separated from fiction. Read More »
June 8, 2010 | by The Paris Review
“We do not allow anyone to see it, let alone photograph it,” the director of Vienna’s Federal Museum of Pathology at the Narrenturm told Lena Herzog when she first attempted to visit. Herzog was drawn to the collection of what eighteenth-century monks in her native Russia called “lost souls,” and what nineteenth-century doctors described as “incompatible with life”—unborn fetuses and newborn infants who, by virtue of nature’s mutations, were unable to survive but who were preserved by early modern collectors as objects of scientific inquiry and private wonder. These human and animal specimens were often displayed next to maps of the earth and of the stars—evidence of a desire to define boundaries and map the unknown.
Herzog first encountered a similar collection as a student in St. Petersburg in 1988, and her reaction was swift and clear: “What I saw was extraordinary and subversive. It defied belief . . . The Russian Orthodox church declared the souls of these babies ‘lost’—they had no place in hell, or heaven, or even limbo. They were dead on arrival and had no place to go. Yet what was in the jars shimmered with a strange beauty.” For Herzog, that strange beauty is “something that shocks with a promise of some answer but gives none.”Read More »