Category Archives: curiosities

Evil Twins and Doppelgangers: What Meaning Does the Double Have in Folklore?

(from @FolkloreThurs – link to full article below)
“Norse mythology features a strange type of double in the vardøger. In a weird form of reverse deja vu; the double does everything the real person is going to do before they actually do it. Witnesses report seeing or hearing a person before they physically arrive.The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe bumped into his double on the road. Goethe was riding towards Drusenheim, and his double approached in the other direction. This second Goethe wore a grey suit trimmed in gold. Goethe found himself on the same road eight years later, riding in the opposite direction. He was wearing a gold-trimmed grey suit.”

Read the full article at the link below.

Source: Evil Twins and Doppelgangers: What Meaning Does the Double Have in Folklore? – #FolkloreThursday

* Interestingly, I’ve had a couple of episodes similar to both of those described in the short excerpt above. At school, I saw a friend of mine enter the classroom, late for class, and flustered. She closed the classroom door with her back, and approached the teacher to apologise for her lateness. And then… I saw a friend of mine enter the classroom, late for class, and flustered. She closed the classroom door with her back, and approached the teacher to apologise for her lateness, and then she sat down at her desk.  I’ve never forgotten seeing that happen. Not sure if it was “with my own eyes” or what though!
And on another occasion, I experienced something that I cannot explain here, that woke me from my sleep but was inexplicable: then in the exact same place, some years later, an event happened that was exactly what I had thought had woken me up all those years previously. Who knows?!

Anyway, I thoroughly recommend the full article liked to above; wonderful stuff.

image: How They Met Themselves by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, approx 1860-1864

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The Forgotten Treehouse Bars of Bygone Summers in Paris

Many years ago when I was very young, a genteel old gentleman asked me my name, and I was so young that I gave him my full name. My surname was Robinson, and the old man told me that he had dined at a restaurant at the top of a tree, in Paris, and the restaurant was called Robinson. I remember thinking he was just being silly, to amuse me. After all, how could there be a restaurant in a tree? And why would anyone call a restaurant “Robinson”?

So I was flabberghasted when a post appeared in one my newsfeeds on social media.

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“Les Guinguettes de Robinson was the place to be in the summer of the 1850s. Parisians descended to the small district south of the city en masse to relax high up in the branches of chestnut trees and dance in the forest. It all began in 1848 in the hamlet of St. Eloi when an inkeeper was inspired by the popular myth of Robinson Crusoe.”

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He created a restaurant perched in an old Chestnut tree he called the Grand Robinson. It was an instant success and competing taverns and restaurants multiplied quickly, adopting the same Crusoe theme along the Rue Malabry. In 1888, “Le Grand Robinson”, not to be confused with “the Grand Arbre”, which set up shop just opposite, had to change its name to “Le Vrai Arbre de Robinson” (the Real Tree Robinson”), in order to set itself apart from the competition.

Customers in chestnut treehouses were served lunch of roast chicken and champagne, their meals hoisted up to them in baskets via rope pulley systems. In 1855, a food critic wrote that ‘lavish tables were set and lovebirds without feathers but forks in hand exchanged happy kisses in the breeze, witnessed only by the foliage’.

 

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For Parisians who couldn’t flock to the seaside during the summer months (but could now escape the city thanks to the expansion of the “suburban” railway lines around Paris in the late 1850s), Les Guingettes de Robinson provided a uniquely enchanting and exotic summer adventure. For over a century, this Robinson Crusoe Village was a Parisian paradise.

For many more photos and the history of what happened to these restaurants, see Messy Nessy Chic The Treehouse Restaurants of Bygone Paris

I reckon the old man must have been a very dapper young gent when he visited, and I envy him those memories of dining in a tree top in Paris.

 

German Artist Manipulates Plant Roots to Grow in Intricate Visually-Striking Patterns | Oddity Central – Collecting Oddities

Inspired by Charles and Francis Darwin’s theory on plant intelligence, German artist Diana Scherer managed to successfully coerce the roots of various plants to grow in specific patterns. The results of her work are simply breathtaking.

In his book, The Power of Movements of Plants, Charles Darwin argued that while plants are not capable of moving from the place where they are rooted, their roots don’t just grow passively, but actively observe their surroundings, navigating in search of water and certain chemicals. He also refers to roots as plants’ brain-like organ, suggesting that they are actually a lot more intelligent than most people think.

Based on Darwin’s controversial “root-brain” hypothesis, Amsterdam-based artist Diana Scherer conducted an artistic experiment where she attempted to coerce plant roots to grow in intricate patterns, sometimes becoming interwoven into stunning living carpets.

Source: German Artist Manipulates Plant Roots to Grow in Intricate Visually-Striking Patterns | Oddity Central – Collecting Oddities

The Redemption of Saint Anthony | Gustave Flaubert and Odilon Redon

Gustave Flaubert, best known for his masterpiece Madame Bovary, spent nearly thirty years working on a surreal and largely ‘unreadable’ retelling of the temptation of Saint Anthony. It was only in the dark and compelling illustrations of Odilon Redon, made years later, that Flaubert’s strangest work finally came to life.

Colin Dickey explains in the Public Domain Review:

In the fall of 1849, Gustave Flaubert invited his two closest friends—Louis Bouilhet and Maxime du Camp—to hear a reading of what he believed was to be his masterpiece: a retelling of the temptation of St. Anthony. The 30 year-old writer had been working on it for four years, and he was excited to finally share it with the two men whose opinion he trusted more than anyone else. Bouilhet and du Camp were likewise excited; they both knew of his extraordinary potential, and were anxious to hear this masterwork that had so fully consumed him. He read the entire five hundred and forty-one pages straight through: eight hours a day in uninterrupted four-hour blocks of time, for four solid days. Bouilhet and du Camp would later remember it as the most painful days in their lives, as they listened to an endless morass of words that was alternately incomprehensible, banal, repetitive and childish. After it was over, they did their best to put a good face on it, and to let him down easy; Bouilhet, with as much tact as he could muster, told Flaubert simply, “We think you should throw it into the fire and never speak of it again.”

“Instead of continuing to work on the Temptation, they challenged him instead to write something completely devoid of romanticism and symbolism—something instead minutely detailed, objectively reported, as in the vein of Balzac. And so Flaubert wrote Madame Bovary, the book that changed not only his life but changed forever contemporary literature—and which, one could say, was the result of something crossed between a dare and a punishment.

And still, Flaubert never gave up on the Temptation. He rewrote it three times over the course of his life, spending close to three decades trying to get it right, finally publishing it in 1874. Even as he was writing Sentimental Education, Salammbô, and Bouvard and Pécuchet, he never forgot it, and yet it cannot begin to compare to those other works. The Temptation was the ghost lingering behind all of Flaubert’s better works; in the words of Michel Foucault, “The Temptation seems to represent Flaubert’s unattainable dream: what he wanted his works to be — supple, silky, delicate, spontaneous, harmoniously revealed through rapturous phrases — but also what they must never be if they were to see the light of day.” It became the thing he returned to time and time again, always the antithesis of his great writing, and it stood in stark opposition to the works by which he is now mostly known.”

[Odilon] Redon (1840-1916) had been working in lithography since around 1870, developing a singular style that anticipated both the decadent symbolism of the late nineteenth century and the modernism of the early twentieth. Redon’s milieu borrowed largely from the gothic folktales of his childhood, to which he borrowed a pictorial vocabulary from an unlikely place: the grotesque cartoons of political satire, with its half-politician half-animal hybrids, its exaggerated facial features and deformities, and the tone of decadent depravity.

Redon had been working for over a decade when the third and final version of Flaubert’s Temptation was finally published; “It is a literary marvel and a mine for me,” he wrote of the book, in which he saw an endless litany of bizarre figures and distorted creatures that he could adapt as inspiration. Their work formed a natural kinship; as Stephen F. Eisenman comments, “Like Flaubert, Redon saw himself as unique, an accident, a monster, and all the more remarkable an artist for these very reasons.”
Redon began producing a series of plates based on the Temptation, work which finally unlocked the strangeness and decadent symbolism that Flaubert had dreamt of but which he could never quite evoke on the page.

Read more and see the images at the link below

via The Redemption of Saint Anthony | The Public Domain Review.

The Celestographs: August Strindberg’s Alchemical Shots of the Night Sky

The Celestographs: August Strindberg’s Alchemical Shots of the Night Sky

In the 1890s, Swedish playwright August Strindberg photographed the night sky without a camera or even a lens. These “Celestographs,” as he called them, were both a folly and an innovative work of experimental art. The National Library of Sweden has recently shared a selection of these photographs online, displaying the gritty textures of the strange images.

Sadly, the plates that Strindberg set out under the stars have been lost, but these well-worn prints remain. While Strindberg is celebrated for his dozens of modernist plays and other works of naturalist fiction, when he hit a creative block he turned to visual art. A friend of Edvard Munch, Strindberg produced paintings that are physical, almost aggressive, canvases marred with paint, jabbed and slashed with the palette knife and brush. His photographs are hands-off. As Douglas Feuk wrote in 2001 for Cabinet magazine:

“Strindberg distrusted camera lenses, since he considered them to give a distorted representation of reality. Over the years he built several simple lens-less cameras made from cigar boxes or similar containers with a cardboard front in which he had used a needle to prick a minute hole. But the celestographs were produced by an even more direct method using neither lens nor camera. The experiments involved quite simply placing his photographic plates on a window sill or perhaps directly on the ground (sometimes, he tells us, already lying in the developing bath) and letting them be exposed to the starry sky.”

via The Celestographs: August Strindberg’s Alchemical Shots of the Night Sky.

Froger’s Capybara and the Metaphysics of Memes – Blog – The Appendix

Froger’s Capybara and the Metaphysics of Memes – Blog – The Appendix.

“We brought three oxen, a few chickens, a tiger-cat, and another animal quite extraordinary, that the Portuguese call ‘Capivard,’ which has the body of a pig, the head of a rabbit, and thick hair the color of ash: it has no tail at all, and sits on its rear quarters like a monkey. It is almost always in the water, and does not venture onto land except at night when it ravages all of the gardens and trees that have fruit.”