No. 48 | Trees
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“Brandis, so he told me, had traversed the woods of Pegu riding an elephant on such trails as there were, with four sticks in his left hand and a pocketknife in his right. Whenever he saw in the bamboo thickets a teak tree within two hundred feet of his trail, he cut a notch in stick number 1, 2, 3, or 4, denoting the diameter of the tree. It was impossible for European hands, dripping with moisture, to carry a notebook. At the end of the day, after traveling some twenty miles, Brandis had collected forest stand data for a sample plot four hundred feet wide and twenty miles long, containing some nineteen hundred acres. He continued his cruise for a number of months, sick with malaria in a hellish climate. Moreover, he underwent a trepanning operation, and for the rest of his life he carried a small hole filled with white cotton in the front of his skull. But he emerged from the cruise with the knowledge needed for his great enterprise.”1
Can a false god deliver real miracles? Take the case of Charles E. Dederich, better known as Chuck. A more unlikely figure of divinity would be hard to imagine. Born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1913, Dederich’s early years were spent staggering through the American wilderness in a drunken haze. He flunked out of Notre Dame, was fired from his job at Gulf Oil, married and divorced twice, lost touch with his children, and slipped into what he termed “a holocaust of boredom.” By the mid-1950s, he was a wino stumbling along the beach in Santa Monica, California, without friends or family to help him.
The universality of tattooing is a curious subject for speculation.
—Captain James Cook
Everybody everywhere, it seems, originally agreed that their skin could be better, that it wasn’t doing the job it might have done, that it was holding in too much or hiding too little; that it needed a hole, a gash, a bump, a rash, a zag, a zig, a beast, a grid, a swirl, a sword, a word, a Lord, a girl, a grin, a heart, a yin, a cross, a globe, a star, a sleeve, a polychromatic cosmic sheath marking every place the body bleeds.
That much is obvious. Human beings believe the ecology between what’s outside and inside is off and the epidermis is the best place to begin redressing this imbalance. The universality of tattooing Cook pointed to reflects the universality of the knowledge that we are not made in our own image. Whatever we might be, we look down at our bare skin and know there’s been a mistake, an omission. This unruly fabric in which we’re so wrapped up—this, anyway, is not it.
Shell of the bright sea-waves!
What is it, that we hear in thy sad moan?
Is this unceasing music all thine own?
Lute of the ocean-caves!
Or does some spirit dwell
In the deep windings of thy chambers dim,
Breathing forever, in its mournful hymn,
Of ocean’s anthem swell?
—Amelia Welby, “To a Sea-Shell,” 18451
What sounds reside in spiral seashells? For generations, people who live by the sea have held that, when pressed to the ear, seashells resound with something like the roar of the ocean—a sensation whose explanation has offered a puzzle pleasurable and provocative to scientists and lay listeners alike.
More than three-quarters of the food consumed in the United States today is processed, packaged, shipped, stored, and sold under artificial refrigeration. The shiny, humming stainless steel box in your kitchen is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak—a tiny fragment of the vast global network of temperature-controlled storage and distribution warehouses cumulatively capable of hosting uncounted billions of cubic feet of chilled flesh, fish, or fruit. Add to that an equally vast and immeasurable volume of thermally controlled space in the form of shipping containers, wine cellars, floating fish factories, international seed banks, meat-aging lockers, and livestock semen storage, and it becomes clear that the evolving architecture of coldspace is as ubiquitous as it is varied, as essential as it is overlooked.
In 2001, the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain took the Automobile Association, a motoring organization, to court over copyright infringement, claiming the Automobile Association was using Ordnance Survey maps as the source material for its atlases and town plans.
The Ordnance Survey originates in a 1747 plan to facilitate the subjugation of the Highland clans following the Jacobite uprising of 1745, when Lieutenant Colonel David Watson proposed that a comprehensive survey of Scotland would assist in further campaigns. The result—The Duke of Cumberland’s Map produced under the command of its namesake by William Roy, Paul Sandby, and John Mason—was the first military-quality map of the British Isles, and grew into the Principal Triangulation of Great Britain (1783–1853), which set the standard for the Ordnance Survey’s work.