From Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure, copublished by the British Library and the University of Chicago Press, which makes public for the first time Arthur Conan Doyle’s notebook and sketches from his time as a twenty-one-year-old ship’s surgeon on an Arctic whaler
NB: Seals are clubbed.
Thursday April 15th
Beautifully fine day but we did a poor day’s work, about 46 I sink. Assisted in shooting 2 bladders. They took five balls each. A pretty little bird with a red tuft on its head, rather larger than a sparrow came and fluttered about the boats. No one had ever seen on e like it before. Rather a long beak, feet not webbed, white underneath, with a “pea-wheet—pea-wheet.” A sort of Snowflake. Georgey Grant got his trousers torn by a young Sea Elephant in the evening.
Friday April 16th
Steamed hard to the North West all day to see if we could see anything of the seals. Failed in seeing many, and only picked up half a dozen. Jack Buchan shot a hawk in the evening which the Captain with his eagle eye discerned upon a hummock, and detected even at that great distance to be a hawk. About 18 inches high with beautifully speckled plummage.
[3 DRAWINGS: “My idea of a hawk,” “The Captain’s idea of a hawk,” AND “The prey the Captain’s hawk is looking out for.”]
Saturday April 17th
Nothing doing all day. Only half a dozen seals again. We are steering South now with the Iceberg, a Norwegian. If we could only make it thirty tons I wd be satisfied. We have about 28 now I think. 26 degrees of frost today. Had singing in the evening in the mates’ berth.
[DRAWING ‘Saturdya’s Night at Sea, April 17th/80.’]
I began a poem on tobacco which I think is not bad. I never can finish them. Ce n’est que la derniére pas qui coute.
Sunday April 18th
A snowy drizzly kind of day. Shot a seal in the morning off the bows; it was just sticking its head over the water. Saw two large sea birds, “Burgomasters” they are called. Went to a Methodist meeting in the evening conducted by Johnny McLeod the engineer, he read a sermon from an evangelical magazine and then we sang a hymn together. Argued afterwards with him.
Monday April 19th
Started stuffing our hawk this morning, or rather skinning it, for that is all I can do having no wires. I opened the stomach, then got out the legs to the knees and the humeri, and then inverted the whole body through the hole, cleaning out the brain, and removing everything except the skull. The result was satisfactory. We got a few bladders today, and are going North now to the old sealing. The Captain seems not to like the look of the ice at all.
[DRAWING “A Snap Shot”]
Tuesday April 20th
Nothing doing all day. Didn’t take a single seal. Sailed and steamed to the North East. 72:30 today. Cleaned a couple of seal’s flippers for tobacco pouches, rubbed alum all over our hawk’s skin.
Wednesday April 21st
Absolutely nothing to do except grumble, so we did that. A most disagreeable day with a nasty cross sea and swell. No seals and nothing but misery. Felt seedy all day. Was knocked out of bed at 1 AM to see a man forwards with palpitations of the heart. That didn’t improve my temper.
“More than any of his peers, Hofstadter was sensitive to the increasingly urban and ethnic character of American life. Eager to embrace the future rather than commemorate the past, he rejected the conventional signposts that had for so long given direction to American civilization—a culture of capitalism, individualism, and isolationism. These established values, he knew, had long served Americans eager to define themselves as a Protestant, farming people. But the times no longer supported this vision—nineteenth-century liberalism collapsed in the 1930s. Its failure to solve either that decade’s industrial crisis or the ideological schisms that prefaced fascism’s war on the West and communism’s hold in the East elicited from Hofstadter a sharp intellectual response. His criticisms frequently drew blood and aroused strong opposition from both conservatives and progressives. And they had good reason to worry. Unencumbered by deep roots in the native soil of his immigrant father’s adopted country, Hofstadter enlisted the past to reveal the failings of a time-worn political tradition and by inference highlight the promise of what he believed was a more humane, cosmopolitan, and pluralistic postwar liberalism. Anglo-Saxonism and agrarianism were out. Ethnic diversity and modernity were in. As the old codes gave way, America’s need for fresh heroes and new perspectives encouraged Hofstadter to rewrite its history as a prelude to moving its culture.”
“And what we leave here is more than class; it’s the whole heritage of youth. We’re just one generation—we’re breaking all the links that seemed to bind us her to top-booted and high-stocked generations. We’ve walked arm and arm with Burr and Light-Horse Harry Lee through half these deep-blue nights.”
“That’s what they are,” Tom tangented off, “deep-blue—a bit of color would spoil them, make them exotic. Spires, against a sky that’s a promise of dawn, and blue light on the slate roofs—it hurts … rather—”
“Good-by, Aaron Burr,” Amory called toward deserted Nassau Hall, “you and I knew strange corners of life.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald (born September 24, 1896), from This Side of Paradise
“When Warhol’s work is convincing, it does what Beuys’s does: it promises nothing; it testifies. The American dream can of course do nothing without promises; it needs to be real only for those who know now to get ahead. It might seem that Warhol’s work is content to expose it and strip its cynicism bare. The yuppies who collect it obviously understand it this way and take pleasure in it accordingly. The leftist criticism that castigates it precisely for not promising a beyond to the commodity understands it the same way. But to testify is neither to promise nor simply to expose; it is to attest to reality as it is. It is also to reopen the possibilities of interpreting reality and forcing a retranslation; it is, in Warhol’s case, to test the possibility of an art condition “below” or “before” the commodity. The field where this unfolds is, as with Beuys, that of political economy, and the text we must retranslate—not into the myth of emancipation but into its antithesis, the American dream—is, as always, Marx’s.”
Immanuel Velikovsky (1895-1979): psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, comparative mythologist, Cassandra of as-yet-to-come catastrophe, bestselling author, and would-be interlocutor of the electromagnetic, intraplanetary forces responsible for cataclysmic Biblical events such as Noah’s Flood and the Tower of Babel’s collapse.
“People ask me how I knew it was time. There was no watershed, but a slow accumulation of miseries. Ody had been in serious decline for six months. Partial paralysis of his laryngeal muscles made it hard for him to breathe, and he would begin to pant at the slightest exertion. His once deep tenor bark had transformed into a raspy Darth Vader croak. The signals from his addled brain often failed to reach his body, so when I walked him he left a Hansel and Gretel trail of pee and poop behind him. His muscles atrophied, and his walk was crab-like and unsteady. He grew increasingly uninterested in food and people, his two great passions. Worst of all, he began falling more and more frequently and was unable to get up by himself.
Toward the end, I would wake in the night to scuffling sounds. I’d search the house and find Ody trapped behind the piano or tangled up in the exercise equipment. It was on the fourth such night that my husband said: ‘It’s time. We can’t do this to Ody anymore.’
Euthanasia is deeply entrenched in the culture of pet keeping in America, and for the vast majority of companion animals, death will be orchestrated by a human caretaker, the time and date chosen in advance and not, as it were, decided by ‘nature’ or some higher power. Yet despite its ubiquity, we rarely question its moral appropriateness.
Euthanasia is typically thought of as a choice between suffering and death — and, indeed, it can offer relief from unyielding pain. But death is too often prescribed as a de facto treatment for suffering when much less aggressive possibilities exist. We can ease our animals into the valley of death, rather than abruptly shoving them off the cliff.”—from bioethicist Jessica Pierce’s recent op-ed in the New York Times on end-of-life care for our companion animals, the subject of her book The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives
“But there are no hysterical bodily convulsions, intense gesticulations, or rigid contortions in the famous collage that Dalí made to illustrate the architecture of sexual ecstasy in Minotaure. There are only a series of disembodied heads with open mouths. The epileptic seraglio had become cerebral. The architecture of hysteria is all in the head. With mouth agape and eyes wide shut, Dalí reminds us that architecture is not about the reality of the external world but about the space of fantasy. Rather than an architecture of erecting and “filling in,” Dalí presents an architecture of emptying out and unearthing. It would perhaps be unproductive to search for Daphne’s architecture in the external forms of a building; she is more of an “interior design”—the product of an architectural implosion.”
“Things started happening because there were major crowds. The tourist thing was so much bigger. There were a hundred thousand people on any given weekend. You couldn’t even walk. I mean you’ve seen those pictures of Venice when it was crowded like sardines. It was like head to head, body to body. And from Monday through Friday and sometimes on the weekends, but especially during the week, people even brought their stuff out and had yard sales all out on the boardwalk… . People would put stuff out there and sold it for a dollar fifty. It was sort of like a funky thrift store with lots of neighborhood people. That went on for a couple of years. Three or four years maybe. And then were were a lot of street performers tarting out. It was pretty funky.”
The dissemination of a war against terror has depended on a locution full of historical and contemporary ironies, for terror began its lexical life as the policy of the state, and wars are traditionally waged by states, so the war against terror can be (and has been) deciphered as the war of the state against itself. But international events are not the only sources of interruption of or distraction from the working out of memorial vocabularies for the dead of 9/11. There is also the ongoing negotiation between commerce and commemoration at the WTC site, a process that pits the declared obligations of memory and due respect against those of a future civic life, both economic and cultural. It is easy to cast the moguls of Manhattan as insensitive and materialistic, but the memorial process has also been aggressively suborned by the politicians, whose avowed respect for the dead is not beyond suspicions of present and future self-interest. Debates about the use of the site have not been unmarked by the assumption that the dead should bury the dead and thus by an embarrassingly hasty inclination to get on with life. Many residents have made it clear that they do not wish to live in a national memorial emptied of retail, full of tourists by day and deserted by night. On the other side, melancholic extremes can also be identified among some of the survivor families and other involved groups who want the site to remain always a shrine to the departed.
The event we call 9/11 has a past that we can rediscover, a present that we must monitor, and a future we can project. Many of us who were addressing even the most circumscribed of publics—our students or fellow academics—felt the urge, in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, to make a statement, to testify, to register a response, to initiate some sort of commemoration. Many of those responses to the form of grief, sorrow, shock, and above all, self-recrimination at the appearance of carrying on as before. The rhetoric veered wildly between sympathy and self-importance—as if it were a moral duty that each of us should speak—but what was notable was the need to register awareness of some sort. Many people all across America, not only those who knew one of the dead or knew someone who knew someone, reported feelings of acute personal anxiety and radical insecurity, but there was never a point at which this response could be analyzed as prior to or outside of its mediation by television and by political manipulation. With the passage of time it may come to appear that 9/11 did not blow away our past in an eruption of the unimaginable but that it refigured that past into patterns open to being made into new and often dangerous forms of sense.
The 100th birthday of the great bluesman Muddy Waters arrives next April, but a recent encounter with an extraordinary (and previously unpublished) photograph of Waters prompts us to start the celebration early. It was made in Chicago in 1951 by photographer Art Shay, who himself celebrated a birthday this past spring—his 90th. Shay is a favorite of ours; his prodigious body of work includes the most memorable images we have of Nelson Algren’s Chicago. He shared his recollections of this photograph for us:
“The editor of the New Yorker ended his review of the new Keith Richards book Life with a plangent line from Richards asserting he could never be as good as Muddy Waters or as black. I met the generally acknowledged Father of Rock and his wife Geneva in 1951. Time magazine had sent me to the south side club in which he was performing. I arrived early as usual and there he was, strumming his guitar and cuddling his woman in the hallway. Slivers of dying winter light came down across the pair from some blessed window giving me barely enough natural light. He strummed a greeting using my name letter by letter. Billy Corgan noticed the first print of Muddy in the trunk of my car and bought it to hang in his studio next to vintage prints of some other music giants like the Beatles, Billie Holliday, and Ella Fitzgerald.”
For more on Muddy Waters, check out our books on issues surrounding blues culture, including: