Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
It reads contradictory, conflicted: the art of science/science of art – the mixture of the logical and methodical with the imaginative and emotional.
But science and art – or, if you’d prefer, art and science – have held hands, if not close friends, for a very long time. Greek and Roman artists followed often strict guidelines considering the correct mathematical proportions of the figures in their frescoes and sculptures, Japanese woodblocks were as much about mechanical precision as they were about the subject being printed, the Renaissance was all about using science to bring a literal new dimension to painting, and then you have the work of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka.
No, you haven’t heard of Leopold or Rudolf Blaschka – but you certainly should have. Unlike the Greeks and and Romans, the Japanese Ukiyo-e artists, Michangelo and Leonardo, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka aren’t well known outside of either esoteric or scientific circles.
Which is what makes them so remarkable: they mixed the staggering beauty of pure art with a precision and dedication worthy of great scientists.
Leopold and Rudolf were glass artisans – possibly some of the greatest, ever. But what they created weren’t just glass and goblets, lampshades and windows. Nope, Leopold and Rudolf created nature.
Simplified, here’s the story: Professor George Lincoln Goodale, of Harvard, wanted to teach botany. But the problem with teaching botany is that plants have a tendency to … well, die. Sure, you could preserve some specimens but lots of species just don’t look the same after being dried – the plant version of stuffed and mounted. Yes, you could try using paintings or even photography but plants are – and here’s a surprise -- three dimensional. So what Professor Goodale did was ask the Blaschkas to create glass plants to help him teach his students about real ones.
But the Blaschkas did more than just recreate plants: they created astounding works of not only scientific accuracy but pure, brilliant, art. Looking at even the simplest of their efforts is deceptive – a sign of their genius. Their reproductions don't resemble the original plants – they look EXACTLY like them, created by hand, in fickle and fragile glass. All from 1887 to 1936.
What’s even more impressive is how many they created: more than 3,000 models of some 850 species – many of which can be seen on display at Harvard while many others are being painstakingly restored.
But the Blaschkas didn’t stop at plants. Not to take anything away from their artistry, but plants are relatively simple subjects. In some cases the Blaschkas could even work from live, or recently plucked, models. But there are much more difficult subjects out there, creatures so rare and fragile that very few men have ever seen them in their delicate flesh – even more frail than the glass the Blaschkas used to recreate them.
When these reproductions were made, in the late 19th century, only a few marine explorers and a few lucky seaman had seen any of them. Octopi, urchins, sea cucumbers, anemones, jellyfish, cuttlefish – they were too rare, too fragile, to be seen outside of the sea. That is until the Blaschkas.
I wish there was some way to request a moment of silence. I wish there was some way to ask you to stop reading this and look at the pictures here and at other places of the web. I wish there was some way for you to have a nice glass of wine, put on some nice music – maybe Bach, who also mixed science and art – and just admire the care, the craft, and the pure art the Blaschkas created.
The Blaschka brothers left an inspirational legacy. Josiah McElheny – the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant – is a kindred spirit to the Blaschkas, another mind-blowing artist who works in the whimsical and temperamental world of glass … and the disciplined domain of science.
McElheny’s works -- like that of the Blaschka brothers -- finds inspiration in the universe around us, particularly with one sculpture that depicts a key moment. In many ways this is a perfect place to stop: the Blaschka brothers created perfect artistic reproductions of nature to teach science, and McElheny created a sculptural interpretation of the ultimate act of creation, as discovered by science: the Big Bang.
The art of science, the science of art … in the end they are both looking for the same thing: a way to show the nature of everything.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Here is the latest collection of M.Christian's insightful and original work. Fabulous! I have yet to read anything Chris has written without feeling that my own assumptions were challenged, and I was pushed to think about sexuality, politics, gender, and literature in a whole different way. There aren't enough people who can write from the polymorphous perverse perspective that he seamlessly adopts. He is a genuine ally of sexual minority communities and has walked the walk and talked the talk in dozens of different erotic and edgy experiences. If you'd like to expand your horizons and spread your wings (or your legs, or somebody else's legs), you couldn't have a better guide than the wise, wry, irreverent, and twisted M.Christian.
--Patrick Califia, author of Mortal Companion, Hard Men, and Macho Sluts.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
I'll be putting up more pages from the final over the next few months ... or you can read the entire thing on Wynn's Deviantart pages.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, November 14, 2009
M. Christian is responsible for making me blush on the train: If there were ever a Nobel Peace prize for overcoming prudish sexual mores through acceptance, understanding, and racy literature, it would be won by M. Christian.
-- Brian Wanamaker: an arguably bilingual game developer who has made Osaka, Japan his home for the last 8 years. Like Snake Plissken, he has escaped from Los Angeles.
Fantasist, futurist, eroticist, satirist, humorist, dentist drilling deep into the nerves of the here and now ... M. Christian wears a lot of hats in this multifaceted collection, and they're all a splendid fit.
— Brian Hodge, author of Mad Dogs and Lies & Ugliness
M. Christian's stories are both personal and visionary. He not only explores the outer boundaries of his imaginary worlds, but dives deeply into the lives and minds of the characters who live there.
-- Kit O'Connell is a writer, poet, and critic from Central Texas. He is a member of the Society of Voluptuaries and a founder of the Continuous Coast Project.
M. Christian is a chimera, an amazing combination of tour guide and magician. Whether he's writing science fiction, horror or erotica, he can take you to places you've never imagined, show you sights no-one else will get to see, introduce you to some fascinating people, and guarantee that the trip will be memorable from start to finish. Buy a ticket and fasten your seat belt: you're in for a wild ride!
-- Stephen Dedman is the author of The Art of Arrow Cutting, and Shadows Bite
M. Christian always writes like dream whether he's creating fantastic visions or ghastly nightmares. With this collection, you get both!
-- Paula Guran, DarkEcho
To enter into the twisted world of M. Christian is akin to entering into a nightmare realm from which you'll never awaken. As long as you keep turning the pages, the nightmare continues. Amazingly, you keep turning the pages...
-- Rick R. Reed, author of IM and Orientation
M. Christian's imagination and writing talent never cease to amaze me. Both are limitless and his stories can be addictive.
-- Cecilia Tan, author of Mind Games, White Flames, and The Velderet
M. Christian offers something in his writing that has become rare these days: art. His craft is elegant, captivating the reader's mind and then molding it like clay into whatever he desires. He plays rough at times, but it hurts so good.
-- Jerrod Balzer, author of Fear The Woods, contributor to I Was A Sasquatch Love Slave
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
I really do plan on finishing the final selection within the next month or so. I ask all those patient folks who sent me stories to just hang on a little longer. Thanks!
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Amanda McKittrick Ros (8 December 1860–2 February 1939) was a novelist born in Drumaness, County Down in Ireland. She published her first novel Irene Iddesleigh at her own expense in 1897. She wrote poetry and a number of novels. Her works were not read widely, and her eccentric, over-written, circumlocutory writing style is alleged by some critics to be some of the worst prose and poetry ever written.
Amanda McKittrick was born in Drumaness, County Down on 8 December 1860, the fourth child of Eliza Black and Edward Amlave McKittrick, Principal of Drumaness High School. She was christened Anna Margaret at Third Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church on 27 January 1861. In the 1880s she attended Marlborough Teacher Training College in Dublin, was appointed Monitor at Millbrook National School, Larne, County Antrim, finished her training at Marlborough and then became a qualified teacher at the same school.
It was during her first visit to Larne that she met Andrew Ross, a widower of 35, who was Station Master there. She married him at Joymount Presbyterian Church, Carrickfergus, County Antrim on 30 August 1887. She died after a fall in her home in 1939.
Ros was strongly influenced by the novelist Marie Corelli. She wrote: "My chief object of writing is and always has been, to write if possible in a strain all my own. This I find is why my writings are so much sought after." Her admirers included Mark Twain, Lord Beveridge, and Aldous Huxley. Her novel Irene Iddesleigh was published in 1897. It was reviewed by humorist Barry Pain who sarcastically termed it "the book of the century." Ros retorted in her preface to Delina Delaney by branding Pain a "clay crab of corruption," and suggesting that he was so hostile only because he was secretly in love with her. But Ros claimed to have made enough money from her second novel, Delina Delaney, to build a house, which she named Iddesleigh.
Belfast Public Libraries has a large collection of manuscripts, typescripts and first editions of her work. Manuscript copies include Irene Iddesleigh, Sir Benjamin Bunn and Six Months in Hell. Typescript versions of all the above are held together with Rector Rose, St. Scandal Bags and The Murdered Heiress among others. The collection of first editions covers all her major works including volumes of her poetry Fumes of Formation and Poems of Puncture, together with lesser known pieces such as Kaiser Bill and Donald Dudley: The Bastard Critic. The collection includes hundreds of letters addressed to Ros, many with her own comments in the margins. Also included are typed copies of her letters to newspapers, correspondence with her admiring publisher T.S. Mercer, an album of newspaper cuttings and photographs, and a script for a BBC broadcast from July 1943.
Nick Page, author of In Search of the World's Worst Writers, rated Ros the worst of the worst. He says that "For Amanda, eyes are 'piercing orbs', legs are 'bony supports', people do not blush, they are 'touched by the hot hand of bewilderment.'"
Aldous Huxley wrote that "In Mrs. Ros we see, as we see in the Elizabethan novelists, the result of the discovery of art by an unsophisticated mind and of its first conscious attempt to produce the artistic. It is remarkable how late in the history of every literature simplicity is invented." This is how she tells us that Delina earned money by doing needlework:
She tried hard to keep herself a stranger to her poor old father's slight income by the use of the finest production of steel, whose blunt edge eyed the reely covering with marked greed, and offered its sharp dart to faultless fabrics of flaxen fineness.
Her novel Delina Delaney begins:
Have you ever visited that portion of Erin's plot that offers its sympathetic soil for the minute survey and scrutinous examination of those in political power, whose decision has wisely been the means before now of converting the stern and prejudiced, and reaching the hand of slight aid to share its strength in augmenting its agricultural richness?
Page comments: "I first read this sentence nearly three years ago. Since then, I have read it once a week in an increasingly desperate search for meaning. But I still don't understand it."
The Oxford literary group the Inklings, which included such luminaries as C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, held competitions to see who could read Ros' work for the longest length of time while keeping a straight face.
A poet as well as a novelist, Ros wrote Poems of Puncture and Fumes of Formation. The latter contains "Visiting Westminster Abbey," which opens:
- Holy Moses! Have a look!
- Flesh decayed in every nook!
- Some rare bits of brain lie here,
- Mortal loads of beef and beer,
- Some of whom are turned to dust,
- Every one bids lost to lust;
- Royal flesh so tinged with 'blue'
- Undergoes the same as you.
As of 2004, none of her works are in print. Her books are rare and first editions command prices of $300 to $800 in the used-book market. Belfast Central Library has an archive of her papers, and the Queen's University of Belfast has some volumes by Ros in the stacks.
The Frank Ferguson-edited collection, Ulster-Scots Writing: An Anthology (Four Courts, 2008) includes her poem, 'The Town of Tare'.
On 11 November 2006 as part of a 50 Year celebration, renowned librarian Elspeth Legg hosted a major retrospective of her works, culminating in a public reading by 65 delegates of the entire contents of 'Fumes of Formation'. The theme of the workshop that followed was 'Suppose you chance to write a book', Line 17 of 'Myself' from page 2 of Fumes of Formation.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
The jokes pretty much write themselves: ‘organ,’ ‘blowing pipes,’ ‘wind,’ etc., etc., so on, so forth …. But the giggling stops when you start to investigate the history, science, and simple magnificence that has gone into the creation of some of the world’s most incredible pipe organs.
As with a lot of important technological – as well as artistic – achievements, trying to determine who made the first one of these things is a bit fuzzy. Some experts give the ancient Greeks most of the credit – specifically the genius Ctesibius of Alexandria. Those early Greek organs were simplistic compared to the height of organ science … stop giggling … but the basic principle is still the same: force air through a pipe and you get sound. Make the pipe smaller, tighter, and the note that comes out is higher. Make the pipe larger, wider, and the note that comes out is lower.
What’s interesting is that portable organs were not just created but common in certain parts of Europe during the Middle Ages. They were probably about as mechanically simple as Ctesibius’s early invention, but it’s still remarkable that the technology was there and transportable by horse and wagon.
But when you want to talk about big organs … I asked you to stop giggling … you have to talk about the permanently installed ones.
As with astronomical clocks, large organs quickly became the blockbusters of their time. If yours was a town of any notoriety then you pretty much had to have one – the bigger the better. The fact that they were used by churches, like the aforementioned fancy clocks, couldn’t hurt either, as they had the deep pockets to afford them.
Here’s another bunch of interesting organ facts … what are you? 12? … the organ created for Halberstadt, Germany was a monster for its time. Its bellows had to be worked ceaselessly by ten men – who were, no doubt, music fans. The technology is impressive today, and was simply astounding when it was created in (ready for this?) 1361.
Because the technology of a pipe organ is relatively simple, making them bigger was pretty much a matter of just scaling them up: bigger pipes, bigger air supplies, etc. While there were a lot of monster organs … now you’re just embarrassing yourselves … there are some that took the musical instrument from noteworthy to astounding.
One of the largest is still played today: created in 1911, the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ in Portland, Maine, is a beautiful piece of engineering as well as musical artistry. Although much of its technology is hidden – which is often the case with organs – what is visible is simultaneously elegant and powerful, which also perfectly defines the music of its haunting notes.
Another great organ … are you finished? … can also still be heard. Created in 1904 for the St Louis World’s Fair, the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia is a monster among monsters. Everything about the instrument looks like it was designed not just to make sound but a LOT of VERY BIG sounds: it has not one, not two … but, to get to the point, 28,482 pipes set in 461 rows. Its keyboard looks more like something used to launch a space shuttle rather than create music. But the organ definitely creates music – on a scale commensurate with its standing as the second largest pipe organ in the world.
Okay, get your giggles, guffaws and chortles out of the way. You ready to hear about the world’s largest organ? Unfortunately – as with a lot of big organ claims -- you’re likely to be disappointed.
Next time you’re in Atlantic City, swing on by and check it out in the Boardwalk Hall. Built in 1932, the organ makes that beast in Philadelphia look like a sickly kitten. While the Wannamaker Organ boasts those 28,482 pipes, the Boardwalk Hall organ has – ready for this? – about 33,000 pipes. I say ‘about’ because even the owner/operators of the machine aren’t sure. Even the engineering for the organ looks like something that might have been built to power the Muzak in the Tower of Babylon elevators.
The Boardwalk organ holds a total of three Guinness World Records: largest pipe organ in the world, largest musical instrument, and – it must have been a literal blast to have been there when this was set – the loudest musical instrument ever constructed. When asked how he felt about winning this last award, the keyboardist was heard, barely, to answer “what?”
Alas, the organ remains … you were waiting for me to make another joke, weren’t you? Well, I would if we weren’t talking about such a legendary musical instrument. The Boardwalk organ, alas, is largely silent: having been damaged by weather, water, budget cuts, and poor attempts at repair, it can still be heard but at only a fraction of its true potential and power.
And there’s nothing funny about an organ that isn't operating at full capacity.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Right now I'm into GTA4 multiplayer. Join in if you have the game ... but be warned: I'm a "bad ass mofo."
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Keeping with the season - and nicely dovetailing with my article that just appeared in Forum UK - the great folks at Phaze Books just released a pair of my stories, "Begging Ivory" and "Thicker Than Ink" as part of their HeatSheet erotic horror line. Click here to order this mini-collection, and here's a quickie description of the stories:
From an acclaimed author of erotic fiction comes two tales of titillating suspense. Begging Ivory: An antique object not only brings pleasure to it new owner, but assists in freeing her from an abusive relationship. Thicker Than Ink: Some tattoos are beautiful, others intricate and ornate. Still others provoke a variety of emotions - arousal, ecstasy, even a desire for revenge.