When In Doubt

Make Up A Story

The one I am going to tell myself, is I am suffering from culture shock. I am highly familiar with the historical sources on the orangutan. But entirely unfamiliar with the contemporary arguments in modern science history surrounding the subject.

I suspect I am dealing with one response to an academic debate, which was unsettled at the time of writing and going through the point of a debate when opinion is particularly divided. I may of course be wrong, my point off contrast would be with the 6th century.

Debate centered on a group of scholars, who favored, early readings of sources, i.e. the suggestion that the material first recorded in 6th century offered a window on the Iron age and an old unbroken tradition. A position termed nativisim.   The non-nativist position held that the material was written by christian scribes in a christian present, using and radically altering the past.

It was an intense argument with both sides over-inflecting argument to get a point across. It settled to a degree with a more balanced perspective but still remains an issue due to the nature of the sources.

I would love to state that the early Irish legal material I use was shaped by someone with an understanding of Latin law and some understanding of classical perspectives on classical language origin. The suggestion is made that the extensive recording of Irish legal material in the 6th century is far more influenced by new ecclesiastical learning rather than simply a collection of customary tribal law. But its difficult to call with any certainty.

My perspective on the 6th century would be to incline towards looking at it in context rather than as a form of conjectural history for pre-historic argument. Unless its backed by strong comparative/archaeological perspective.

With the early modern period I seem to hold a somewhat contrary perspective at the moment, seeing the ghost of a relationship with the past in the way stories are told and framed.

With academic debate I am uncertain about, and one that seems to over-inflect at points, my tendency is to run with a belief shaped by past experience and look for a potential site of conflict and strong disagreement.

Does not matter at the moment if my perception is incorrect, I’ve told myself a story I am comfortable with, which allows me to make uncertain water’s seem on the surface at least potentially understandable.

 I can engage further and hopefully reach more certain ground and an understanding of contemporary debate and its different currents that pull and shape argument.

Trip To The Printer



I really must get some cards printed with the web address of Marquee Moon (blog I use to archive most of my day- time pictures).

I have no idea who this couple were, other than they clearly enjoy photography and are relaxed and ease with a camera. I hope they would be pleased with the result.

Happened at speed, my reactions were not fast enough to get the two friends together fully, but I would have been tempted to crop this one this way I suspect if I had done better.

I did pass them later but being rather shy and not knowing if the shots had worked I did not say anything. I think they may have read that as annoyance for having bombed a shot.

I was focusing on a bus to the right, and I notice with gaze perception that people can asses with uncanny accuracy within seconds what you are focusing on, track you’re line of sight and determine the object you are using as a focus point with  surprising speed and accuracy.

Often people then start looking about further, trying to determine what is so ‘interesting’ in the environment to make you focus on a particular point in it. Presumable what is ‘interesting’ is what people perceive to be the correct subject for a photograph, so horizons are scanned looking for that elusive interesting event that must be elsewhere.

I need to get faster and also engage more with people in moments like this when they give something of themselves and help me learn to take pictures.


Orange Vest

My vague intention when I bought a camera was to photograph the architecture of the city that I enjoy. Street proved to be a bewildering place, things constantly became entangled with what I was attempting to shot. Every day-life getting in the way and passing me by, obscuring my vision of the ‘interesting’ subject that existed in my mind but proved a rather elusive and vexing beast to capture.

Ape Standing On A Fish Urinating (Being A Cultural History of An Orangutan)


Was The Orangutan A Cretin?

I have reached page 15 of a Cultural History of the Orangutan. Its introduced a couple of sources I am unfamiliar with but before reading any further I think I want to determine more precisely the accuracy of a thesis it introduces. That early descriptions of the orangutan referred not to a form of ape but to human and that the humans in question  suffered from endemic cretinism, a debilitating physical condition caused by iodine deficiency.

I don’t like these type of suggestions I think this form of explanation is traditional in material presented for a more science orientated audience. In the past such forms of explanation are sometimes presented as the mis-observations of a non-scientific animal.  Remain skeptical on this particular point but consult some late 17th century sources, refer to some medieval material on the dogs heads, and then move on.

The more general point that the early texts from the 17th century are referring to humans who have suffered a loss in social status, is an interesting one.

My gut tells me that in the mid to late 17th century a narrative cycle that begins in the 12th century is still very much in mind. No clean break and the picture is a deeply mired and messy one. The devil is of course in the detail.

L0076363 A compendium about demons and magic. MS 1766. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere. Watercolour c. 1775 Published:  -  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

L0076363 A compendium about demons and magic. MS 1766.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros. Anno 1057. Noli me tangere.
c. 1775 Published: –
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Ape standing on fish, urinating into a mortar and pestle, 1375-1425

Tinkering With Time

Tick Tock: The Birth of The Light Bringer 

I woke up this morning, turn on the radio straight away and was greeted with a short science segment to the news, on the debate on leap seconds and the atomic clock.

Narrative made two  points I seem to have become very recently familiar with.

It started by noting how the discovery of the atomic clock revolutionized time keeping in the 50’s when it was discovered and then a brief description of why leap seconds are deployed to keep the atomic clock in sync with the earths rotation. Then came what I suspect may be some form of physicists joke. That in comparison to the atomic clock the earth was an inconsistent time keeper.

Interesting subject, but I was more interested in how the narrative framed itself with its hook at the start to snare, revolution, then a further high inflection point a couple of sentences in, being inconsistent.

The Second Sight Of An Object

This description of revolutionary change and the earths indiscriminate perception of time left me with a strange, uncanny feeling that I have heard this one before someplace?

Gaining familiarity and getting in sync with an alien but consistent emotional register?

New Boots and Panties (Or Being A Cultural History of the Orangutan)

As Mad As A Stick

I’ve only had a copy for a few weeks but I have now reached page 3 of the Wild Man from Borneo, A Cultural History of the Orangutang and managed to read it for a whole two minutes, before getting tired and emotional and putting it down.

After a cite by Louis Le Comte, urging caution when it came to the acceptance of testimony of travelers the book makes a substantive statement,

this modern skepticism replaced the indiscriminate menagerie of the Middle Ages with a new bestiary of real animals, less grotesque than their predecessors because they were more accurately described and depicted and soon to be placed on display (with orangutans they were often shaved and presented with no bodily hair, holding a stick or walking stick to emphasis a relationship with humanity: my own observation).

I am nitpicking as I have been deliberately generalizing myself of late  as a means to detect weakness and bias, its not an easy task.

Not exactly convinced that the late 17th century suddenly resolved the vanity of the eye issue which was certainly a matter of anxious discussion along with wide debates and argument over the credibility of witness testimony.

One word made my attention entirely evaporate indiscriminate what does that teach us about medieval collecting and presentation of sources? Other than learning that the period is clearly very different from the modern world, not a lot.

Nennius was a 9th century Welsh monk who compiled a text known as the Historia Brittonum, he stated at the start of his work that he had indiscriminately “heaped” what he had found and was merely presenting in his findings to an audience. This statement was accepted by generations of historians, its significant as it suggested Nennius  was presenting older material in an unaltered form, giving historians clear accesses to an early layer of textual sources from the 6th to 9th century.

Nennius is now known to be a synchronizing historian, bending dates and history to suite his particular calculation and needs. Aside from this sentences role  as a flag waver for a watershed moment in history as a demonstration of how to read medieval material and its synchronizing swimmers in ever-shifting historical waters, its perhaps less successful. But that’s not the point its trying to make.

An issue I find with my own generalization,  you make a substantive point that works and does its job in inflecting and highlighting without noting you have killed something else. You can catch it some of the time, but not all of the time.

Best way to deal with the fabulous many headed beast of generalization, be skeptical when it comes to both you’re own and other peoples. The General situation will improve gradually over- time or you may have a watershed moment, although I don’t think such exotic creatures exist outside the mind of historians.

Its sometimes been suggested that the stick, held in late 17th century depictions of Orangutans, is a visual legacy and reminder of older medieval wild man.

A so and not so statement, they are comparative, both fit in a larger cultural discussion, a creature with a weapon is confronted with an issue that takes it outside the bounds of natural law, animals unlike humans, kill prey and do not keep prey captive. This presents being, with an individual moral choice to make in such matters, a traditional feature of legal philosophy. To shake a stick, take a captive as slave or take a differing moral route to kill, these were considered to be man-like qualities.

A creature that required a differing body of laws beyond that of natural law.